Employee Profile | Laurene Mandelson

Female apprentice Laurene Mandelson installing cables.
Laurene Mandelson would like to see more female apprentices join the electrical industry.

Laurene Mandelson started working at Contact Group about three years ago, after packing up her life in New South Wales and embarking on a complete career change.

Having owned and operated a landscape gardening business in Sydney for 20 years, Laurene said she moved to Hobart to escape the fast pace of a big city.

“Hobart was appealing as it offered great restaurants, a fantastic State Cinema and lots of great events if you’re in the mood, but without the hordes of people,” she said.

Laurene Mandelson driving a ride-on lawn mower.

Initially she took a year off but Laurene said she couldn’t handle not being busy.

“With my personality I couldn’t enjoy it, I was too stressed about what am I going to do with the rest of my life and then finally I went what do I like to do, I like variety and as an electrician there’s plenty of that, plus it’s task focussed which I love.”

So in 2018 Laurene did a week of shadowing an electrician in Hobart and three weeks work experience at the Hedberg Centre, before starting work at Contact Group as a mature-age electrical apprentice.

She said to begin with, it was a bit daunting.

“You self-doubt, firstly my age I really self-doubted that, but as soon as I started, I realised the only person that self-doubts is really you.”

Laurene Mandelson | Contact Group Electrical Apprentice
Laurene Mandelson working on a landscape gardening project.
After 20 years as a landscape gardener Laurene Mandelson embarked on a career change.

Laurene said it helped that she was given a great crew to work with at the Hedberg Centre, who were really welcoming.

She said while she barely knew anything at that time, it was great to be part of a project that was so significant to Hobart and Tasmania’s future.

“I was just at the learning stage, so I was a very small part of it – let’s be honest, but I got to put all these little lights in one of the music rooms and the woodwork in there was really amazing and I did really enjoy that.”

“Sometimes when we go to the theatre now I’ll say.. see those down lights, I put those lights in… so yes it was a great project.”

Female Apprentice working on Commercial Construction Site in Tasmania
Laurene Mandelson began her apprenticeship at Contact Group working on the Hedberg Centre in Hobart.

As well as the Hedberg Centre she has worked on the Housing Tasmania contract, the renovation of the ABC Hobart Newsroom, and the UTAS maintenance contract, where she remains today.

She’s really enjoying working at the University and being mentoured by her supervisor Tommy, who she said she has learnt a lot from.

But her apprenticeship has not been without challenges, with Laurene admitting there had been a few bumps along the way, like her HV rotation.

“I was working with massive cables and finding it really difficult and just thought this is not me, so I mentioned it to management, and they were really great about it.”

“I think it’s important for apprentices to remember not all fields of the industry will fit with your personality and it is worth raising with your supervisor – because it is important to feel like you’re learning, achieving, and enjoying work, which is good for you and good for Contact.”

Laurene Mandelson | Contact Group Electrical Apprentice

Laurene said she had no regrets about her career change, and it was nice to do something totally different.

“You do go from being really confident and competent in your job to oh my god I know nothing, so you do have those wobbly moments of thinking what am I doing? But now that I’m going into my fourth year, I’m feeling like yes I actually can achieve this.”

Laurene Mandelson standing in the courtyard of the University of Tasmania Sandy Bay campus.
Laurene Mandelson is currently working at the University of Tasmania where Contact Group carries out electrical maintenance.

She said working in a male dominated industry hadn’t been an issue at all.

“I have had no bad experiences. It’s been really good. But I think it’s important to get more women involved to get a balance in the workplace. I think it’s more healthy and reflective of the world we live in.”

Her message to other women who are considering a career in the electrical field is to go for it!

“Any trade, women can do it, yes we might not be as physically strong, but we work as a team.”

Laurene Mandelson | Contact Group Electrical Apprentice

Such a great message – thanks Laurene and good luck for the remainder of your apprenticeship.