Cameron Cowan may only be 18 but he’s hitting his stride in his second year as an Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration apprentice with Engie.
Back in his final year of high school Cameron was keen to get started in a trade and wanted work experience but wasn’t sure where to begin. MIGAS happened to be visiting his school and it was then, that he heard about the HeadStart program.
‘I heard about HeadStart through Petelo. He suggested that I join the program to prepare myself for a trade.’ From the Program, Cameron learnt so much about working life, including what to expect from an apprenticeship as well as what employers are looking for.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for Cameron who originally planned to be an architect but the idea of sitting down at a desk all day didn’t appeal to him. You could say he was one of the smart ones, realising early that your chance of getting a job is greater once you’ve completed an apprenticeship than if you’ve gone to university. Not to mention for some professions your income is usually better once you’ve become qualified. The likelihood of being self-employed or owning your own business are also greater.
Cameron is a testament that hard work really pays off and a career in the Ventilation and Air-Conditioning Industry (HVAC) was soon within his sights.
‘Once I realised that I didn’t want to chase a university degree, I really became interested in electrical work. My Dad’s friend is an instrumental sparky, seeing his work built a small want in me to become an electrician.
‘While still at school, I found myself playing around with the electrical side of the portable air-conditions we had around the house and one day I busted a pipe and let out some refrigerants. We had to get a professional to come and fix it and that sparked my curiosity even more.”
Cameron believes HeadStart really made the difference.
‘HeadStart really helped me understand how to be more professional, in the way I talk to customers and in my presentation,’ he says.
‘I learnt how to speak professionally. It was sort of touched on at school, but school was more about grammar, spelling and writing, not really about talking in a professional setting with customers and your boss.’
Cameron attributes his communication skills to part of his success in his first year as an apprentice. Realising early that not all tradesman are good teachers, he had to find the ones that connected with him.
‘Some tradies will explain something to you and expect you to get it. But they can’t always teach you in the way you learn. I quickly noticed who were the good teachers and would call for advice when I needed it.’
‘I learnt that no question is a stupid question. The only stupid questions are the ones you don’t ask.’
Cameron’s advice to Year 12 students today is to focus more on traditional subjects, not just your typical trade classes. Once you start your trade, most young apprentices find they’ll use Math and Science every day, more than anything else they’ve learnt at school. Some trades including electrical and engineering require a high level of Maths and Science, because they require you to make complex calculations in the field to ensure you can make the correct decisions.
“If I could do high school again, I would have done a lot more Math. It’s easy to be lazy and I probably could have focused on a higher-level subject. I really should have done Math B and C, and Physics. You don’t think you need anything other than basic Math – but you do if you want this trade.”