ETU Apprentice of the Year

The job includes preventative maintenance processes, breakdowns and fault finding, plant down days and shutdowns, instrumentation, and developing knowledge of both electrical and manufacturing processes.

As someone who graduated from an all-girls private school, Zahn was never taught how to use basic tools; encouraged to pursue a trade; or made aware that it was even an option.

Zahn had spent most of her life playing elite sport and juggling casual work in between trainings, games and travelling interstate for tournaments. But, at the age of 24, Zahn quit all four of her casual jobs and took up an electrical apprenticeship.

“As well as the knowledge and qualifications that my electrical apprenticeship has given me, I have also gained an overwhelming sense of capability in other areas: It isn’t that I wasn’t capable of fixing something, just didn’t know how”

Zahn valued the ability to continue to play sport at a high level, the freedom to travel all over the world, and to have the opportunity to consistently learn and upskill. Taking up a trade became a life-changing pathway that has taken Zahn into a secure job, provided and continues to provide tangible skills for life, being a union member has become an inextricable part of Zahn’s life.

“The apprentice experience is a learning process that is built on trying and failing and trying again” has also given me the resilience, life experience and confidence to challenge myself in other areas: Embarking on a trade made me ready for something I didn’t even know I was preparing for.”

In 2023 Zahn attended the ETU National Apprentice Conference in Canberra. Through team workshops and training from the ETU, electrical industry apprentices from all over the country were taught the skills to lobby over forty Federal MPs, including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. These ETU apprentices hand delivered the ‘Powering Australia Skills Plan’ – fighting for more relevant training in a transitioning energy industry, and better working conditions and support systems for apprentices.

This year, as the current ETU Apprentice of the Year, Zahn returned to Canberra, to Parliament House, to be in the room for the Federal Budget announcement: the biggest ever investment in electrical workers, including more funding for apprentices.

“As an apprentice, I got an education, qualifications, on-the-job training and experience, connections with like-minded people, and an invaluable link to the union community…”

Creating a shift in industry culture comes from a collective pursuit of fairness, respect and inclusivity.

“Ask yourself, what have I done today to make our trades better for the next person?”

As part of her role as ETU Apprentice of the Year, Zahn will be a member of the ETU delegation attending the Global Power Trade Unions Congress in Stockholm, later this year. These are just some of the opportunities being the ETU apprentice of the year creates. The ETU will soon be opening applications for the 2024 apprentice of the year.

You can listen to Zahn talk about her sporting career and life as a sparkie on The Rugby Podcast here

This article was publised on 30 June 2024.