Dual-trade apprentice and WorldSkills champion Hannah Terry is one of many bright young sparks working at the Geelong Refinery. She talks here about her life as an apprentice with Viva Energy.
What’s your role at Viva Energy?
I’m in my fifth year as an apprentice electrician and instrumentation technician.
How did you come to be doing a trade apprenticeship?
I was too impatient to study at university – I realised it was going to mean a minimum of three years of study, then graduating with a massive HECS debt. It would take time to get established in a career and make good money; I wanted to make tracks!
Why the electrical trades?
At first I thought about diesel mechanics, but the electrical trades were better matched to my interests and physical capabilities.
What really excited me, though, was the range of opportunities in this field. You could never know it all, and there are so many different career pathways you can take. There’s always an opportunity to learn more in-depth, or take your training to the next level.
What does a typical day at work involve?
We deal with a vast range of situations here at the refinery, especially since I’m doing a dual trade. Being on apprentice rotation, we work in different plant areas every few months and get exposed to widely varying jobs, including fault finding, installation, commissioning, isolating equipment and maintenance to name a few.
I’m currently with the HV (High Voltage) team, so I’m learning about higher voltage equipment, maintenance and operation. I generally do a lot of work with instrumentation, especially since there are so many instruments needed to monitor the processes here. There’s also a lot of transmitters needing to be checked and calibrated to make sure they’re working reliably. This is usually done by applying a known variable to the transmitter and ensuring that it reflects the value expected.
What do you like about your job?
Apart from the people I work with, I’m enjoying the opportunity to learn and push myself further. I feel that I have been really lucky in my apprenticeship and that all of the things I’ve achieved so far wouldn’t have been possible if I wasn’t in a place like Viva Energy.
I competed in the 2016 National WorldSkills competition last year with my teammate Luke Scott, and came out with a gold medal in the mechatronics category. For those who don't know what mechatronics is, it’s traditionally the culmination of mechanical equipment being electrically controlled by a programmable logic controller (PLC) to achieve an automated process.
Viva Energy supported me throughout the competition and, most importantly, gave me the time to do it. I don’t feel that I would've had the same opportunities elsewhere.
Where can you see yourself in the future?
It would be great if I could stay on at Viva Energy when I finish my apprenticeship, but it depends whether they need someone at the time. I’d like to work as a dual trader, but am increasingly open to the idea of going back to school and doing engineering as well. I’m only 24, so that’s a possibility one day; I’m keeping myself open to any opportunity that arises.