Apprenticeship opening doors to successful career in defence

Georgia Robertson is breaking down barriers and leading the way for women in the defence sector.

Georgia Robertson was told she shouldn’t do an apprenticeship as a mechanical fitter and turner. So she went out and did it. She was also told she shouldn’t enter a male-dominated engineering field. So she did. Today, her efforts have more than paid off, having worked her way up to the role of quality assurance/defence security officer at Axiom Precision Manufacturing, charged with ensuring quality manufacturing standards are met and security measures adhered to.

Robertson’s pathway to a career in the defence sector began at high school, when she undertook vocational education and training (VET) in fabrication before starting an apprenticeship in fitting and turning. “Being told by quite a few people that I couldn’t achieve something gave me the push to go and do it,” she says.

As part of her four-year apprenticeship, Robertson was offered on-site training at Axiom. “I was fortunate to have Axiom offer me a role to complete my apprenticeship, which meant being paid to learn while working in the defence sector on some pretty cool products, including the F35 fighter jets program,” she says.

“The diversity of the day-to-day job has been incredible. One day you can be working on quite standard, simple parts and the next day you could be working on parts for an F35 fighter jet. The variety is really limitless.”

As one of the few women in the workplace, Robertson admits to coming up against some challenges along the way – but has a positive outlook on her experiences to date. “Within the fitting realm of the trade industry, it was still very old-school when I was going through my apprenticeship,” she says. “It wasn’t a warm welcome when I first started and I very much had to work for every bit of respect I got.

“Luckily with the confidence I built up with my trade and my abilities, when I moved to Axiom I was able to earn that respect a lot quicker. But I definitely had to work very hard to get to where I am now.”

She is keen to encourage more females into the industry. “To this day I have never worked with another female tradesperson, so it has been a unique opportunity but a very positive experience and a good pathway to be a part of,” she says. “It sometimes feels like I’m a bit of a pioneer, opening doors for other women to step through. I’d love to see more females get involved in the industry. I think it would be great to see more diversity across the industry – someone has to give the boys a run for their money.”

While Robertson has chosen a hands-on role within Axiom, the range of roles within the company – and the defence sector in general – creates opportunities for all talents. “It can be from administration all the way up to CEO or owner of a company and everywhere in between,” she says. “There are a lot of entry level, graduate and fresh-out-of-school opportunities so I would encourage people to give it a go.”

As for her own future career, that remains firmly entrenched in her home state. “My heart and my life are set up in South Australia and I won’t be moving anywhere else,” she says. “The defence industry is growing so quickly and so vastly across the state that I really don’t see a need to move at any time in the future.”