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Geraldine Cook goes from apprentice to mentor at Zinfra

Brendan Foster -

When proud Alyawarre woman Geraldine Cook started her apprenticeship at an energy industry service provider in central Queensland the learning curve was steep.

Not only did Ms Cook have to leave her tiny remote community of Alpurrurulam in the Top End to commence a four-year pipeline operator apprenticeship at Zinfra's Roma North gas facility, but she also had to overcome a language barrier, as English is not her first language.

However, after recently completing her apprenticeship, she said the rewards were substantial.

"There were lots of challenges from the start," she said.

"I've never worked in gas; I come from a small community called Alpurrurulam in the Northern Territory and English is my second language, but the apprenticeship opened up doors for me.

"After I finished my first pipeline I felt a sense of accomplishment, like I was meant to do this."

According to Ms Cook, she also challenged the culture norms in her culture that does not encourage women to work.

"I always say to young people that if I can do it, you can too," she said.

"I'd love to be a mentor one day and encourage younger people to broaden their horizons."

Ms Cook might not have to wait long for her mentorship to start with 16 new apprenticeships embarking on three-year apprenticeships with Zinfra.

Zinfra's general manager of gas services, Craig Farrugia, said the apprentices would have the opportunity to work across several disciplines on major energy infrastructure projects.

"It's great to see local people, filling local jobs, and ultimately contributing to energy projects which benefit the local community," he said.

"When we talk to young people, or people looking to change careers, they tell us they didn't realise the vast array of opportunities and career paths available to them in the energy industry.

"It's great to see our apprentices work on real-world projects, embrace the various learning and development opportunities available to them, and become valuable members of the Zinfra team."

Mr Farrugia said offering apprentices long-term employment opportunities was a priority for Zinfra.

He said up to 50 per cent of staff at Zinfra's Mount Isa operation are Indigenous.

"At Zinfra our apprentices are set up for long-term success, and it has been great to see previous apprentices continue to have meaningful and rewarding careers once they complete the program," Mr Farrugia said.

"It is a great time to be part of the energy sector."

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