Meet a Busy Mum Building a New Career in the Trades

Jo Stirling, from Queenstown, is an excellent example of a woman not afraid to start a new career after having kids.

When Jo was looking to go back to work, she knew she needed to find a job that would work around her being a mum of two young kids. She tried a few different career paths, one being an in-home child carer. Jo says in-home childcare was a great job while her kids were little. However, the inconsistency of work was a challenge. She really wanted to find something that she was passionate about and that could offer more stability in the future.

At 30 years old, Jo is now almost three years into her building apprenticeship, and although it’s busy balancing her new career and looking after her two kids, aged seven and eight, she has no regrets.

Becoming a builder was a big leap from early childhood care. But Jo had always been keen on building things in her spare time, so she wanted to turn her passion into a career.

“I studied woodwork at school, had worked at PlaceMakers and I’d always enjoyed building things in my spare time. So the idea didn’t come completely out of the blue. I decided it could be more than just a hobby and I wanted to make a career out of it.”

“Once I’d made my mind up, I started asking around and talking to a few people about apprenticeships. I got a few laughs from some people, but luckily, I had a friend who was a builder and I told him I was interested. He said he’d give me a job – and I still work for him now.”

Like most working parents, being an apprentice and balancing life as a busy mum comes with its challenges, says Jo.

“I wouldn’t say it’s easy. I’m just really lucky that I’ve got a good boss who lets me leave early a couple days a week so I can pick the kids up from school.”

Jo never let the fact that the industry is male dominated stop her for pursuing her passion. She urges women to get past the stigmatism and give it a go.

“When I was at school, I didn’t really think that women could go into the trades. When I did woodwork at school, I was the only female in the class. I’II talk to other women now, and they say they’d love to do it and think it would be a really cool job. I think if you have a passion for it, then there’s nothing stopping you from being able to do it.”

When asked what her favourite thing about building was, Jo said it was being able to visually see the progress every day.

“I think the best thing is that I can actually stand back and be proud of what I’ve built. It’s very rewarding to see the results on a day to day basis, maybe more so than an office job.”

After being encouraged to enter by her BCITO training advisor, Jo entered herself into the Registered Master Builders CARTERS Apprentice of the Year competition this year. She recently competed in her first regional practical challenge, where the apprentices were challenged to build a bird box.

Jo will find out at the end of August if she has placed in the Southern regional competition, and if she wins first place, she will go on to compete in the National competition later in the year.