In a traditionally male dominated industry where females make up only one per cent of the workforce, Katie Hammill-Lovett is proud to be breaking the mould as she begins her trade career in the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (RAC) industry with the Woolworths Group.

Hammill-Lovett, 19, is one of 15 new apprentices to secure a job with Woolworths in the past year.

She is one of only four female apprentices to be selected from nearly 500 applicants.

After just six short months, Hammill-Lovett is thriving in her new trade career and said that her experience so far at Woolworths has been amazing.

“When I started I didn’t even know any other female tradies, so I had no idea what it was going to be like stepping into a traditionally male dominated industry,” she said.

“Going into it was a bit stressful at first but I’m being supported so much and learning new things all of the time - every single day is different.

“The tradesmen I work with don’t care about gender at all, they just want me to get in there and have a go. They just want to pass on their knowledge and teach me the skills they’ve acquired over the years. They think having a female on the team is awesome.”

Like many others her age, Hammill-Lovett was unsure what career path to pursue after finishing high school.

With a trade qualified older brother, Hammill-Lovett’s mum recognised similar skills in daughter and encouraged her to look into a trade career.

After Katie researched what trade pathways were available she decided to enrol into a Certificate II in Electrotechnology at TAFE Queensland which not only gave her greater insight into the industry, but most importantly it provided her the opportunity to gain the foundation skills she needed to start applying for apprenticeships.

“I’d been looking into a range of different jobs and thought I might be suited for a trade career. I didn't even think about refrigeration until I studied a Certificate II in Electrotechnology. All the guys in my class were studying refrigeration and I was like, what is this trade?" she said.

“I talked to my teacher about it, looked at the refrigeration and air conditioning facilities at TAFE and here I am. I found it and I fell in love with it.”

After reaching out to a TAFE Queensland Employment Officer, Hammill-Lovett found out about the apprenticeship openings at Woolworths Group and then jumped at the opportunity.

“This was my one shot and where I wanted to start. I thought this opportunity would be my first foot in the door,” she said.

Hammill-Lovett underwent an intensive recruitment process and was ecstatic to be offered a refrigeration and air conditioning apprenticeship within Woolworth’s Queensland Installation and Construction team.

Woolworths Group apprenticeship program manager, Caroline Fitzgerald said that during the recruitment process one of the main aims was to have a gender-balanced number of shortlisted candidates.

“At Woolworths we believe our customers should see in our people a reflection of themselves and their communities,” Fitzgerald said.

“We are committed to achieving gender equity - it’s one of our key 2025 goals to ensure we truly are an inclusive workplace.

“We had gender balanced interview panels and wanted a gender-balanced number of shortlisted candidates to progress to the final stage. All short listed candidates had to meet the stringent selection criteria to be considered for this opportunity.”

During the recruitment process Fitzgerald said it wasn’t just one thing that made Hammill-Lovett stand out but knowing that she had completed a Certificate II in Electrotechnology was significant.

“The confidence and emerging technical skills she gained from her training definitely opened the door wider for her during the stages of recruitment,” she said.

Hammill-Lovett is now enjoying the variety of work that Woolworths Group is able to offer throughout her apprenticeship and is looking forward to her future with one of Australia’s largest employers – both on and off the tools.  

Fitzgerald said that once Hammill-Lovett completes her trade qualification there will be many opportunities available for her and other apprentices to progress further to take on more senior roles within the organisation.

“There is a whole raft of different career opportunities available within Woolworths. If she chooses to become a project manager or even the next state manager, the opportunities are there,” Fitzgerald said.