We are proud to welcome our first female aircraft maintenance engineering apprentice to APA. Alysha impressed us during work experience last year, and began her apprenticeship in January. We spoke to her in the workshop about how she is finding her new role.
How did you become interested in aviation?
I was always fascinated by aircraft and I always wondered how they worked. I just knew I wanted to be in aviation.
I did my recreational pilot licence (RPL) when I was 14 or 15. I was influenced from my dad (who is a pilot) and at that stage I didn’t have anyone in my family that was in maintenance. When I was doing my RPL, I did enjoy it but I didn’t feel like it was for me. I much preferred learning about the parts of the aircraft and how everything worked to get the aircraft to fly.
Then I decided, ‘well, I don’t want to be a pilot, I don’t want to be a flight attendant, I might as well do this and just see where I end up’ – and I made a good choice.
I just trusted myself and I’m happy that I did because while I was studying my Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Maintenance), I discovered that this is what I actually like to do.
What do your friends and family think about your job?
Everyone thinks it’s pretty cool. Most people are very surprised because they don’t expect me to be doing this. All of my close friends and family knew what I was studying and I’m lucky to have everyone’s support. I’m also fortunate to be working alongside my older brother who is an aircraft maintenance engineer, so I think it’s pretty cool to have that run in the family.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’ve been doing my first turbine and it’s for a Series IV M250 C30. I’ve taken on a lot of responsibility because it’s my first job, so it is testing me making sure that I understand what I am doing. I’ve never done a type engine, so I have been learning all of the different parts and how everything works and making sure everything is right. It’s been really good.
I have taken a lot of information onboard and I’m becoming more confident with my hand skills, being able to identify engine parts and learning the processes of correctly building the turbine.
How do you feel when you fix and assemble something?
I feel quite proud and it’s very reassuring when I am able to produce results. Anyone can read the manual, but to actually be able to interpret and translate those instructions into hand skills takes a lot more. It is never as simple as following what the manual says – there are a lot of things you can only learn from experience.
So when I fix something, I feel accomplished because I’ve figured out how to do it. It’s really rewarding.
How are you fitting in with the team?
I feel like I’m in good hands and I’ve got good mentors. They definitely put pressure on me and help me through things, rather than just doing everything for me. They’re very helpful and they know what they’re doing. I think it’s pretty amazing that I can ask a question about how something works and they can explain everything I need to know.
Being the first female, they want me to be comfortable and I feel like they’re taking good care of me.
How do you feel about being the first female apprentice?
I didn’t realise when I first started and I was shocked in a good way. I was just under the assumption that other women would have come before me. It is very special and it’s going to be symbolic to me throughout my whole career. I am happy to be in the right place at the right time, and to be in a workplace that facilitates my growth as a young aircraft maintenance engineer.
I hope I can encourage more women to join the industry or at least be someone they can relate to.
What advice do you have for other young women who are wondering if they should give it a go?
If it’s something you are already thinking about, that is confirmation that you actually want to do it. I understand it’s an intimidating industry to get into, but take that leap of faith.
You don’t have to be one of ‘the boys’ to enjoy this type of work. For me personally, I didn’t want to feel like one of the boys, I still want to be myself. So you don’t have to change – if you just put in the effort, you’ll be fine.
You only have one life, so you may as well live it doing something you actually want to do – even if that means pursuing a career that’s against the norm.
Alysha’s ability to learn new skills and take initiative is proof that this career is for anyone, and we hope her story inspires more women to join our industry. To prepare for a career in maintenance engineering, the first step is to complete a Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Mechanical) at an aviation trade school, after which you can apply for an apprenticeship position.