June 15, 2023

“Apprentice of the Year” Finds Her Perfect Hands-On Role

Growing up on a farm, Megan Hazelden learned the value of honest, hands-on work at a very young age. So, when an opportunity came along to pursue a four-year mechanical fitter apprenticeship at our Wagerup refinery in Western Australia, she jumped at the chance.

“I previously worked in retail as a visual merchandizer and shift supervisor,” she said. “I knew this wasn’t what I wanted to do as a career, so I applied for and got the apprenticeship just like my sister did the prior year.”

She did so well during her apprenticeship that she landed a permanent position. But her passion and dedication were also recognized outside of our company: she was awarded Western Australia’s 2022 Apprentice of the Year and was a top eight finalist in the national Apprentice of the Year competition. The award-winner now spends her days overhauling equipment, changing out spools and valves, maintaining cooling towers and making minor welding repairs.

During her paid apprenticeship, Hazelden worked one-on-one with Alcoa’s qualified tradespeople and undertook eight weeks of theoretical training at a technical college each year. She believes she would not be where she is today without the chance to learn in a nurturing environment with some of our industry’s top talents.

“If Alcoa’s apprenticeships weren’t available, I wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to learn alongside some of the best tradespeople,” she said. “Some have been in the industry for 30 or more years. Without their guidance and expertise, I could not have learned everything I did prior to becoming a tradesperson myself. They were brilliant in teaching me and making me always feel welcome in what is not a traditional field for women.”

Every January, we select around two dozen apprentices from hundreds of applicants to begin the four-year program in electrical or mechanical trades at one of our Western Australia operations. Upon graduation, the apprentices receive a nationally recognized trade certificate in their respective areas of study.

In addition to her achievements, Megan is also a testament to the success and longevity of the apprenticeship program. She is one of more than 2,100 graduates from the program since it began in the 1960s.

Megan now hopes others will follow in her footsteps and forge exciting careers of their own. “My advice for any person looking to gain a trade certificate is to give it a go,” she said. “Don’t be afraid; try different things and ask plenty of questions. There are so many tradespeople who are more than happy to share their knowledge with motivated people who want to learn the trade.”