TAFE Queensland refrigeration and air conditioning apprentice Natasha Kirchner has been chosen as the Construction Skills Queensland Tradeswoman of the Year at the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) Awards in Brisbane.

Held annually, the NAWIC Awards showcase the achievements and industry advancements of women, men and organisations in the construction industry.

A third-year apprentice, Kirchner was recognised for her dedication to building a successful career in HVAC&R, along with her passion for being a positive role model for other females wanting to pursue a trade career.

Before switching to RAC, Kirchner worked in hospitality, but says she was unhappy with her career direction. One day she helped a friend install an aircon unit at his parents’ house, and took an instant interest in how the system worked.

“At the end of the day, I was captivated,” says Kirchner. “I have always been a hands-on learner and love being involved in anything that gets my hands dirty, but never connected this with a trade.

“I have always had supportive parents, and they were thrilled when I chose to start looking for an apprenticeship. They hadn’t seen a true purpose in my eyes for a while and were happy to see that spark that I’d let burn out come back to light,” she said.

Kirchner says that finding an apprenticeship and breaking into the HVAC&R industry – where females make up only 1 per cent of the workforce – was challenging, but it did not put her off.

“After a few knockbacks I began to realise that I am not afraid to fail and I am not afraid to be faced with a challenge that might knock me for six,” she says. “I believe everyone is faced with challenges in their lifetime and it’s our choice if we let them control us or we turn around and take control of it.”

Kirchner eventually secured an apprenticeship with Airmaster, and now services some of Queensland’s largest governmentally owned buildings, healthcare, aged care, educational, industrial and commercial building facilities. She has also been involved in some of Airmaster’s major projects within the Brisbane CBD, including upgraded fit-outs of new air conditioning systems throughout the old and new Queensland government buildings.

Kirchner praises her employer and says she is excited about her career opportunities.

“In the future I’d really like to go complete a dual apprenticeship in electrical, gain more experience on the tools as a dual tradesperson, and later step up into management,” says Kirchner.

Airmaster Operations Manager Luke Peressini says that since joining Airmaster, Kirchner has been a valuable part of the team.

“Her drive and motivation has been there since day one, and it continues to increase as her skillset does,” says Pressini. “I see a very bright future for Natasha within the industry and her growth has no bounds.”

President of NAWIC Queensland Sheree Taylor has congratulated Kirchner on her achievements to date.

“NAWIC are so pleased to continue to work with industry to shine a light onto the fulfilling career opportunities and attract, support and develop opportunities for women to thrive,” says Taylor.

As the winner of the award, Kirchner will have the opportunity to work with NAWIC over the next 12 months as a volunteer Tradie Ambassador. Her first engagement involved participating in a panel discussion at the recent NAWIC event, Celebrating Female Success in 2021 – Women on Tools Toolbox at the Construction Training Centre in Brisbane.


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