Paris Knight has always been drawn to the practical skills needed in mechanics, having grown up rurally on the northeast NSW coast and learning mechanical repairs at a young age from her sparkie dad.
While still at high school she signed up as a TAFE-Delivered Vocational Education and Training (TVET) student and began knocking on doors for work experience, eventually landing at Mavin Truck Centre in Kempsey.
A week there led to two, then a job interview, and Knight was on her way with an apprenticeship, and is now into her second semester at TAFE NSW Coffs Harbour enrolled in the Certificate III in Heavy Vehicle Commercial Vehicle Mechanical Technology.
“This qualification means I can work in an industry I’m interested in, where there is plenty of work and I can earn a good income, and stay living locally,” Knight says.
“There is more support for females these days, I do believe the stereotypes have been broken. My teachers at TAFE NSW are supportive and encouraging – as is my workplace.”
Dealer principal at Mavin Truck Centre Dean Mavin says Knight has a great skills base through her TAFE NSW training – and a positive attitude, which makes her a valuable employee.
“This is a fast-evolving industry with huge technical and environmental advancements being made all the time. We have several female apprentices, and they each adapt to new knowledge quickly. We need people like that in this industry,” he said.
“It’s a great time to be an apprentice, with strong incentives in place to accelerate their career and a strong pathway to more senior roles. We are fortunate to have Heavy Vehicle courses here in Coffs Harbour through TAFE NSW, as there is strong demand in this region for these workers.”
TAFE NSW Coffs Harbour says it’s also seeing strong female enrolments – Knight was one of six women in her diesel class – and is hoping that interest will help meet demand for quality workers in a growing industry on the Mid North Coast.
Knight said she loves the variety of her work; every day is different with no two trucks or engines the same.
“Going from learning in the classroom to learning at the workshop is also really helpful,” she says.
Often, I’ll come across something at work and realise we just learned about this exact problem in class.”
Knight says it makes her happy to see other women also stepping up to pursue something they’re interested in and getting out of their comfort zones.
She’s hoping to set an example for other women to follow in her footsteps.
“Honestly, just go for it,” say Knight when asked for her best advice.
“Tomorrow is never promised, and you’ll regret it if you don’t go for something that you want to do.”
• Diesel motor mechanics is listed on the Skills Priority List, with a 2022 report finding the estimated vacancy fill rate was particularly low for occupations in automotive trades. Females are also under-represented. In 2019, males accounted for 95.4 per cent of automotive apprentices and traineeships nationally.