Carpentry & Joinery Stage 1 & 2 Apprenticeship (1987)

Maintenance Inspector

Being a woman in a man’s world can be tough, but for Carpentry and Joinery graduate Tess Hernon, the hurdles are worth it.

“My memories of Box Hill Institute are being the only female in the Building Barn, being older than the boys I studied with, and often feeling quite lonely – but I was determined to succeed. I did one day a week at trade school and I loved my actual work environment,” she said.

Now a successful civil servant, working as an Asset Planner with Housing and Community Building for the Victorian Government, Tess plans and makes decisions on new constructions, redevelopments and disposal of public housing properties across the state.

She believes that her Box Hill education played a major role in allowing her to succeed as a female in such a masculine industry. “The course was a huge benefit to me as it gave me a qualification that proved to potential employers that I could do the work in a male dominated trade, and gave me many career options once I qualified,” said Tess.

Tess decided to study carpentry and joinery after working for an antique dealer doing furniture restoration: “I loved the work but, with no real prospects of a secure future, I did a pre-apprenticeship cabinetmaking course at Box Hill to enhance my chances of gaining an apprenticeship (I knew that without a formal qualification it would be hard to get employment in the field I was interested in). I successfully applied for a position as an apprentice carpenter and from there enrolled in the carpentry and joinery course at Box Hill Institute, and completed my apprenticeship in 1987”.
She chose to pursue her dreams at the Box Hill Institute because she was familiar with the campus and some of the staff (having previously completed her pre-apprenticeship here), and thought that the institute would be a supportive environment for her.

Since finishing her studies she has continued to defy stereotypes and realise her ambitions. “I have worked for the Sate Government in a number of building related areas – I was the first ever female employed by the Office of Housing in a Maintenance Inspector role – and I have worked as a maintenance carpenter in a women’s refuge and undertaken numerous private carpentry jobs. I have also completed a building and construction course at RMIT,” she said.
She has plenty of professional achievements to her name, but takes particular pride in bringing a new approach to the role of Maintenance Inspector in the Public Housing area, and instigating some significant improvements. Her proudest personal achievement was successfully qualifying as a carpenter in a male dominated field, and, “over time gaining respect and recognition for my work and trade knowledge”.

And what plans does this trailblazing construction professional have for the future? “I intend to continue to advance my career within Housing and Community Building, to encourage other women to consider a trade as a career, and to try to break down stereotypes within the trade networks and society in general,” she said.