With access to a diverse range of sectors and projects, the electrical industry has long enjoyed a broad range of career paths. When talking about advancement, the discussion often centres on ‘conventional’ pathways leading into management roles or business ownership. A lesser-known option is the role of Industry Instructor, an attractive alternative that enables electricians to teach the next generation of apprentices, while continuing to advance their career.
We were pleased to speak to Michael Tomic, an instructor at the College of Electrical Training (CET), to gain his insights and experiences of this worthwhile career option.
After completing his apprenticeship, Michael started his career in the industrial sector, working in mine site construction and maintenance. “From there I spent some time in Indonesia, where I met my wife, and we lived in Bali for several years,” said Michael.
“I got a fly in-fly out role with Downer, working on the Wheatstone LNG project. After a while the four and one swings started to take their toll, so I took six months off to spend some time with my family, before transitioning to life in Perth.”
Perth offered Michael a new set of opportunities, taking him into roles working on stand-alone power systems and power systems for communications equipment. For several years, he was involved in commissioning, quality control and assurance, as well as building the systems themselves.
When spinal surgery made it difficult for Michael to work on the tools, he started looking at other options.
“I realised I needed to come up with a plan and find a job that was less labour intensive. When I saw CET advertising for an instructor, I decided to give it a go. I haven’t looked back since then.”
Moving off the tools and into the classroom was a bit daunting at first.
“This is the first job I’ve had, where I had no practical experience before I started,” said Michael. “I was worried, wondering if I’d made the right move, but settled in quickly. As part of my induction, CET placed me with another instructor for a couple of weeks, which got me off the ground. Then I went for a two-week training course to complete my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. I wanted to get the qualification finished, so that I could focus on what I needed to do for my students.”
“Before my initial classes, I was nervous - was I going to know everything that I needed to know?” said Michael. “But it was fine. Working at CET is like being part of an industry encyclopedia – a human one. Everyone is so knowledgeable. If you don’t know something, there is always someone who can help.”
While it wasn’t part of Michael’s original career plan, becoming an instructor has proven to be a rewarding career choice.
“I’m learning new things every day,” explained Michael. “It’s a great feeling to go home, knowing something new, that I didn’t know when I woke up. That didn’t happen in my old job, where I was focused in one specific area.”
“Teaching is a rewarding responsibility. My students all learn differently. Some want to sit on their phone all day as they can pass the tests without any problems. Then you get those students who give you all their attention, but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t make sense to them. As an instructor, I’m constantly adapting, identifying who needs help and being creative in finding ways to engage them. I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing my students progress.”
Industry instructors’ key function is to help students understand and prepare for real-world experiences, by sharing their knowledge and expertise.
“As an instructor, you get thrown into all sorts of topics, and you have to pass that knowledge on to someone else. It’s not a job that you walk into and replicate the same thing each day,” said Michael. “Instructing is a constantly changing environment. My students all come from different industries. In some cases, they work in sectors I haven’t worked in, or haven’t been in for some time.”
“We have very open discussions that harness everyone’s knowledge. The reality is that I’m not always the right person in the room, and as an instructor, you have to be able to accept that. You can’t assume you have all the answers. I draw on my students’ knowledge as much as my own.”
“Becoming an instructor at CET was the right move for me. I enjoy passing on my skills and knowledge, and hope it helps my students have a career path that is as varied and satisfying as mine has been.”
If you’re looking for an alternative career, a competitive salary and most importantly job satisfaction, an instructing role might be the right move for you. Industry instructing offers full time and part time options, as well as the opportunity to combine instructing with being on the tools.
For more information on the opportunities available at CET, visit our CET Careers page.