5 insider strategies to help you land an apprenticeship

5 insider strategies to help you land an apprenticeship

VET apprenticeships open doors to opportunity in a wide range of industries—but getting one can be a challenge. We asked five VET apprentices how they scored their big break—and what advice they can share.

1. Phoebe Giadresco, first-year apprentice electrician

Phoebe Giadresco, first-year apprentice electricianIt took 50 applications, 30 first-round interviews and 20 second-round interviews for Newcastle-based Phoebe to secure her fee-free apprenticeship. She credits encouragement from her father for keeping her focused and positive. “Dad kept on sending me opportunities and kept encouraging me to apply—he said, ‘Keep applying, you’ll get one’,” she says.

The 20-year-old is now employed as a first-year apprentice with the Hunter Valley Training Company and hosted to Liebherr Australia, where she helps fix diggers and trucks in the earth moving and mining industry. Her qualification is a Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician.

“I’ve always wanted to be an electrician,” says Phoebe. “I like pulling things apart to see how they work, fixing things and putting them back together,” she says. “Some of my friends went to university, but I chose VET. It was the right pathway for me.”

In May 2019, Phoebe received the Milton Morris Encouragement Award at the HVTC Excellence Awards.


“From what I’ve seen, employers want apprentices to be ready and willing to learn and work hard.” Phoebe got her start by enrolling in a 10-month pre-apprenticeship program in 2018. This gave her valuable experience and credit towards her course. “I think being in the accelerated electrical program helped,” she says. “I did my research on the company and in the interview, I felt comfortable and able to do my best—was still nervous though!”

2. Min Mesk, chef

Min Mesk, chef For 23-year-old Min Mesk, a work experience stint at a local restaurant in Year 10 led to the offer of a chef’s apprenticeship. The Port Stephens-based VET graduate hasn’t looked back since.

Since completing her Certificate III in Hospitality (Commercial Cookery), Min has travelled the world and worked as a sous-chef overseas. Now back from a two-year stint in the UK, she reflects on those early years. A first-year apprentice at 15, it was hard at times to see her friends do ‘normal’ teenage things while she went to work.

“Something I always had to remind myself was that I have an insane amount of love and passion for food and the industry,” says Min. “Seeing the look on people’s faces or hearing the praise would really motivate me to push harder, work smarter and be the best I can be.”


“It’s about finding the place that suits you best—the style of food you want to be creating, the hours, the travel. You really should know what you want before just applying everywhere.”

“Take everything in, say yes, work hard, taste everything and, most importantly, ask questions. When I was a sous chef trialling other chefs, I could pick the ones who wanted it and those who just needed a job. It all came down to whether they asked questions or not.”

3. Blake Mulroe, plant mechanic

Blake Mulroe, plant mechanic Being in the right place at the right time can be an important factor in securing an apprenticeship. Grit and perseverance help, too.

After finishing his HSC in 2012, Blake spent months doing unpaid work experience and casual work with his dad, a diesel mechanic, in his pursuit of a heavy vehicle motor/plant mechanic apprenticeship.

“I didn’t have the experience I needed,” he explains. “Out of the work experience, I got a written reference from my employer, and it was a really good one.”

At 19 years of age, Blake hand-delivered his CV to six or seven employers in his local area. Through these interactions, he learned that many apprentices are placed through a group training organisation (GTO), which employ apprentices and then place them with a host employer. Blake approached one, underwent an interview and basic language and numeracy assessment and then, three days later, “I was offered an apprenticeship,” says the now 27-year-old. “The first offer I couldn’t take because it was too far from home. Soon after I was offered one closer to home. I accepted and started my apprenticeship in January 2013.”

Blake finished his Certificate III in Mobile Plant Technology in 2016 and is now working as a plant mechanic with Exact Plant Repairs.


Although Blake scored his apprenticeship through a GTO, he still believes approaching employers directly was a good move. “You have to go into it with the right attitude,” he says. “Face-to-face is better than email or over the phone. Walk into your prospective employer with your resume, and show them a great attitude and keenness.”

“First impressions mean a lot. You need energy and drive if you are going to succeed in an apprenticeship and as a tradesperson. You need to listen and learn from what people say to you.”

4. Louise Azzopardi, trainer and assessor

Louise Azzopardi, trainer and assessor It took five applications for Louise Azzopardi to secure her heavy vehicle mechanical apprenticeship. It was with the same company where she’d done work experience, and Louise believes this played a big part in getting her over the line.

“I applied for the position online with my resume and cover letter,” says the 23-year-old, who completed her Certificate III in Heavy Commercial Vehicle Mechanical Technology apprenticeship in 2016 and is now herself a trainer and assessor in the field. “I then got called in for a one-on-one interview, where I completed an aptitude test beforehand. In the interview, I was asked a lot of, ‘If this happened what would you do?’ type questions. I was also asked to explain a mechanical part. Doing work experience definitely helped as the workplace already knew how I worked.”

In her initial search, Louise tried a mix of things: she looked online, attended apprenticeship expos and approached some employer workshops in person. “Big companies usually recruit at expos and small companies like people to approach them,” she says. When a rejection letter would come through, Louise would console herself by saying she was “just waiting for the one that fits right”.


“Ask to do work experience. Then if you like it, see if there is a position at the end of the time. Do practice aptitude tests. Dress appropriately for the work environment — in a workshop environment, wear closed-in practical shoes, neat pants and a comfortable, neat shirt.”

And to make a good impression in your first week in your apprenticeship? “Ask heaps of questions and offer to do the tasks you are comfortable with.”

5. Kristjan Blacka, project support officer

Kristjan Blacka, project support officer For Kristjan Blacka, giving himself permission to pursue an apprenticeship was almost as big a challenge as securing one. Based on the NSW South Coast, Kris had spent much of his early career in childcare—something family and friends deemed a more suitable pursuit.

“I’d done a Bachelor of General Education Studies and a Diploma in Early Childcare, but I wasn’t happy,” says the 37-year-old. “I had always wanted to do something more hands-on and mechanically minded.”

Fed up with being miserable and stuck in a job that “everyone else thought I should have”, Kris took the leap. He enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship course in vehicle maintenance and repair, and began applying for apprenticeship positions. “I lost count of how many mechanical-based apprenticeships I applied for. Most of the time I didn’t even get call backs or anything,” he says, “I’d all but given up hope.”

Then Kris’s teacher mentioned that group training organisation HVTC was looking for candidates for a fitter/machinist with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). “It wasn’t the exact position I wanted, but I was definitely still interested and so put my best foot forward,” he says. “It’s lead me to not just having a job with ANTSO, but a career!”

In 2014, aged 32, Kris started his Certificate III in Engineering—Mechanical Trade. The apprenticeship has since led to other opportunities, with Kris now working as a computerised maintenance management system support officer for ANSTO. “Without the trade knowledge and attention to detail I gained from my apprenticeship, I wouldn’t be able to do my current job as well as I do now,” he says.


“Always be yourself and don’t give up on your dreams. If you can, enrol in VET courses that will increase your chances of securing that dream apprenticeship as you will learn so much and prove to potential employers that you are keen and interested.”

“If you’re really passionate, opportunity and success will come”

“If you’re really passionate, opportunity and success will come”

rom Vivid Sydney to Hollywood movies and commercial TV, VET graduate Sebastian Barkoczy’s creative career is thriving.

It’s a bright autumn morning in suburban Sydney and Sebastian Barkoczy is putting a drone camera through its paces. The designer, TV presenter and VET graduate is filming for Get Clever, a Channel 7 show that encourages kids to explore and enjoy science.

For the episode, Sebastian has created a drone obstacle course complete with a blower vac, liquid nitrogen and sliced up pool noodles. “We’re using everyday items to test the scientific factors that enable a drone to fly,” explains the 34-year-old, who also works on Channel 7’s companion program, Get Arty. “It’s all about exploring technology through art, and inspiring kids.”

“Work out what you’re passionate about and follow that. Don’t worry about the ‘best’ or ‘most employable’ option—if you’re really passionate about the area you’re choosing, opportunity and success will come.”

VET opens doors to opportunity

‘TV presenter’ was never a job Sebastian expected to include on his CV. After high school, he spent three years overseas, working odd jobs to “just keep the travelling going”. Back home in Sydney, he fell into hospitality and retail, but, “I had no direction, no goals—I was just working to pay my bills.”

At 24, he decided to see if he could turn his love of building and making things into a career. He enrolled in a Certificate III in Design Fundamentals, then went on to complete an Advanced Diploma of Live Production, Theatre and Events.

“VET changed my life 100%,” he says. “It gave me direction, confidence, skills. Being a bit older, I was really ready to commit and I saw it as an opportunity.”

Since graduating in 2016, Sebastian has featured in the Vivid Sydney festival, worked on live events and music videos, and built sets and props for television and film, including Hollywood blockbusters Alien: Covenant and Pacific Rim: Uprising.

VET delivers the skills to succeed

Sebastian believes a key benefit of VET is how ‘real’ it is. “You learn what it takes to work under pressure with a team of people with varying skills, abilities and work ethic,” he says. “The teachers are all industry aligned and the learning and the facilities, it’s very similar to the real world.”

“Everyone in the industry wants a VET graduate,” he continues. “It’s their ability to walk onto a job site and know how to use the tools, know what’s expected. It’s a great transition into professional life.”

Self-employed, Sebastian works across a range of projects and contracts (at the moment he’s juggling the Channel 7 gig with another converting an inner city warehouse into a lush Buddhist temple-inspired bar). He relies on industry contacts and word of mouth to get his next job. “So far, that’s been my experience of the creative industry,” he says. “You’re as good as your last job and it’s all who you know.”

Navigating the gig economy

For anyone working in the ‘gig economy’, passion is important. As is resilience. “It can be difficult and uncertain, and financially it can be really hard,” says Sebastian. “I think you’ve just got to be really proactive—you’ve got to work hard in every job, leave a good impression—and I think more work will come.”

Of course, the ‘unknown’ is also part of the appeal. “You never know where you’re going to be in the next week or next few months,” says Sebastian. “There’s an element of spontaneity to the creative industries, which is part of the excitement.”

Hunter electricians shine at HVTC Awards

Hunter electricians shine at HVTC Awards

Two Hunter based electrical apprentices have been recognised at HVTC’s annual Excellence Awards, which were held in Newcastle on Friday, 3 May 2019.  

Daniel Beavan, who is currently employed as an electrical fitter at Origin Energy’s Eraring Power Station, was named HVTC’s Apprentice of the Year. The Award, which was sponsored by Howden Australia, was selected from finalists across HVTC’s nine regional branches located throughout New South Wales.  

“I was over the moon to have been named HVTC’s Apprentice of the Year. It’s a huge honour to receive this Award,” Daniel said. 


Meanwhile Phoebe Giadresco, a first-year electrical apprentice hosted to Liebherr-Australia, received the inaugural Milton Morris Encouragement Award.  

Sponsored by Glencore, this Award was created in honour of HVTC’s founding Chairman, the Honourable Milton Morris AO, who passed away in February of this year.  

“It is such an honour to be the first recipient of the Milton Morris Encouragement Award,” Phoebe said. 

“It means a great deal to me to be acknowledged by HVTC and my trainers for my efforts and commitment to completing the Electrical Accelerated program with HVTC. This program provided the skills and knowledge for me to be confident and successful in obtaining an apprenticeship as a female in a non-traditional trade.”  

Despite being at different ends of their apprenticeship journeys, Daniel and Phoebe were both pursuing other career paths before making the switch to the electrical trade.  

Already a qualified fitter machinist, Daniel decided he wanted a dual trade under his belt, so he commenced an electrical apprenticeship with HVTC in 2016.  

Initially hosted by Donaldson Coal, Daniel was rotated to Origin when the mine went into care and maintenance. Since completing his apprenticeship in December, Daniel has gained a full-time role with Origin and is grateful for the opportunities and support he received as an HVTC apprentice.  

Phoebe commenced the NEWSTEP program in the hopes of pursuing Nutrition, but soon realised that university wasn’t for her. Following in her father’s footsteps, Phoebe decided she wanted to become an electrician and enrolled in the electrical Accelerated Program with HVTC to boost her chances of securing an apprenticeship.  

During the course, she successfully applied for an electrical apprenticeship with Liebherr-Australia.  

HVTC CEO, Sharon Smith congratulated Daniel and Phoebe on their awards, which showcase the calibre of the organisation’s workforce.  

“Every year at the HVTC Excellence Awards, we celebrate the achievements of our apprentices, trainees, students and the many host employers we partner with to deliver skills training and employment opportunities across NSW,” Smith said.  

“The achievements of apprentices like Daniel and Phoebe are proof that VET pathways lead to successful careers.  

“Daniel took the initiative to undertake another four years of training after already completing one apprenticeship, making a lot of sacrifices for the betterment of his skills and long-term career aspirations.  

“Throughout his apprenticeship, Daniel was consistently praised for his leadership and communication skills, passion for learning and his work ethic and it is unsurprising he was offered a permanent role with Origin.  

“Similarly, Phoebe took it upon herself to complete an electrical pre-apprenticeship course to gain introductory electrical trade knowledge and skills.  

“Phoebe now attends the Work Readiness program at HVTC 4 days per week and is on site at Libeherr-Australia each Friday. Her tenacity and commitment to improving her career opportunities epitomises the characteristics Milton Morris would have been delighted to support and she is a deserving winner of this award.  

“I wish Daniel all the best in his career and look forward to supporting Phoebe through her remaining years as an HVTC apprentice. They both have a bright future ahead of them.”  

IMAGE | Daniel Beavan shines at HVTC 2019 Awards