From soldier to sparky – how an apprenticeship changed Brendan Carlson’s life


As a former Australian Defence Force soldier, WA Apprentice of the Year 2016 Brendan Carlson is passionate about assisting former ADF personnel to transition into civilian life. For Brendan, an electrical apprenticeship through Apprenticeships Australia and hosted by Woodside was an integral part of his own transition when he left the ADF in 2011.

“The transition process was difficult for me personally. When you’re in the military you walk taller, you’re proud of what you do and who you represent because you’re a part of something so much bigger than yourself,” said Brendan.

“The decision to leave the ADF after six years of service was the hardest decision I have ever made and was difficult to come to terms with. After much contemplation, I left the Army with the intention of starting an electrical apprenticeship. I was naïve in thinking I would walk out of the Army and straight into an apprenticeship. Twenty six at the time, with no electrical experience, finding an apprenticeship was quite difficult. You really start to question your self-worth when this happens and it can be quite depressing.

“I had a great support network in family and friends that helped me out and 12 months later I had an electrical apprenticeship. I know a lot of people in worse positions than me after transitioning out of the ADF because they haven’t been given adequate support. I’m hoping to help change that. For me, and I know it’s the same for many more, this can be achieved through VET.”


In March, Brendan spoke at the ADF Skills forum in Canberra. The forum explored the challenges facing ex-ADF personnel transitioning into civilian life and how the skills developed in the ADF can be transitioned into higher level skills and training, including apprenticeships.

“Winning the WA Apprentice of the Year has given me a much larger platform in which to speak, and more importantly, be heard. Prior to the ADF forum I contacted a lot of mates that have struggled and are still struggling with the transition process back in to society. I felt extremely proud that I was in a position where I could be a voice for many people that feel as though nobody is listening,” said Brendan.

“Helping ADF soldiers to transition effectively into civilian employment is an area I really want to focus on and help with, so I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given. I know it wouldn’t have been possible without the WA Training Awards.”


Brendan still works as an Army Reserve facilitating training, sharing experiences and mentoring junior soldiers.  He is also a mentor for ex-ADF personnel through With You With Me, a support organisation helping veterans find employment.

Having done his electrical apprenticeship through CCI WA’s Energy Apprenticeships Group, hosted by Chevron, Brendan saw an opportunity for more veterans to benefit from apprenticeship opportunities. Brendan pitched the program to Energy Apprenticeships Group which has resulted in a formal partnership between the group training provider and With You With Me, working together on apprenticeship pathways for suitable ADF personnel transitioning back into civilian life.

With You With Me Managing Director Tom Moore said, “The partnership will allow us to refer veterans who would like to complete apprenticeships in WA to a renown and professional provider with strong industry and local links. We aim to refer over 50 veterans in the next 12 months.

“Brendan is the definition of applying yourself successfully after a military career and should be applauded for his passion and mindset.”

Applications for this year’s WA Training Awards close on Friday 5 May 2017. If you want to take your career to the next level and be an advocate for apprenticeship and traineeship pathways like Brendan, put yourself in the spotlight and apply today at


Need assistance with your WA Training Awards application?

The countdown is on to submit your application for this year’s WA Training Awards 2017. If you really want to put yourself in the spotlight but you’re finding answering the selection criteria a little bit difficult, ask for help! Here are a few places you can go for assistance.


Consult the WA Training Awards team or website

The WA Training Awards website has a wealth of information to help you with your application. The best place to start is the Tools page – here you’ll find examples of award winning applications so you can see how others have answered the criteria and you can check out the evidence guides to give you more information on what kinds of examples and evidence you can use to answer each criterion.

If you’re having trouble understanding the criteria or have any other queries, contact the WA Training Awards team by emailing

Talk to your employer, lecturer or VET Coordinator

Your employer and lecturer are people who work in your industry. They may be able to help you with information on the latest industry trends, regulations and new developments in your industry or workplace that may be relevant in the context of your application.

If you’re still at school, your VET Coordinator will be able to give you a good understanding of the VET sector and assist you in understanding the selection criteria.

Your employer, lecturer or VET Coordinator may also be able to assist in brainstorming examples of times during your training or work that you have demonstrated certain skills outlined in the criteria and achievements you’ve gained throughout your training.

Contact student services at your training provider

If your TAFE/training provider has a student services team, contact them to see if they can offer any advice and assistance in writing a winning application. They may also be able to point you in the direction of further assistance from lecturers or other industry contacts.

Talk to your industry training council

There are nine training councils in WA covering all industry areas. The training councils are industry bodies providing strategic advice to the Department of Training and Workforce Development on industry skill needs. They can assist you with information and advice on training needs, current issues and skills shortages within your industry and much more. Visit the State Training Board website for a list of industry training councils and contact details.

Don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need to broaden your understanding and submit the best possible application for this year’s WA Training Awards. Applications close on Friday 5 May 2017. Visit for more information or to submit your application today.

How to sell yourself in your WA Training Awards application

Just like writing a job application, the key to writing an application for the WA Training Awards is to sell yourself.


Sometimes it can be hard to sell yourself in an application or an interview – you may feel like you are boasting about yourself. Don’t think of it as boasting – what you’re doing is providing the panel with the evidence they need to select you as a semi-finalist.

The most important thing you can do is talk about your skills, abilities and achievements in relation to the selection criteria and back it up with examples of when you’ve used those skills in your training and work.

Your written application is the deciding factor for whether you get an interview or not, so you need to ensure you’ve given the panel every reason to shortlist you.

Show don’t tell

Your application must include examples from your training and work. To really sell yourself, you need to show the panel through an example of when you’ve used those skills, don’t just tell them that you have the skills. If you’re not sure what examples to use, visit the Tools page on the WA Training Awards website and download the evidence guide for your category. Alternatively, brainstorm with your employer, lecturer, VET Coordinator or a colleague.

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What’s your message?

Be clear on what your message is. Why is your VET qualification and your career pathway important to you? What difference has it made in your life and therefore, what difference could a VET pathway make in anyone’s life? Once you are clear on this, weave your experiences around this message into your application.

For example, WA School-based Apprentice of the Year 2014 Taylor Wood wanted to show other school students that taking on a VET pathway isn’t a ‘second option’, that VET qualifications lead to rewarding careers just as tertiary pathways do. Taylor’s message was to encourage school students to pick a pathway that leads them to their dream career regardless of whether it was through VET or university.

WA Apprentice of the Year 2016 Brendan Carlson had been in the army for six years prior to starting his apprenticeship. For Brendan, it was his electrical apprenticeship that helped him to transition from military life back into civilian life. Brendan’s message was about the power of apprenticeships – how they can change your life and the opportunities apprenticeship pathways can provide for ex-Australian Defence Force personnel.

Understand the end goal

The judging panels are looking for ambassadors for the VET sector. People whose stories inspire others to follow in their footsteps. People who are passionate about what they do and know the value of the skills they’ve learnt to work in their field and have a successful career. When you apply for a WA Training Award, you are applying to be an ambassador, so show the panel why your knowledge, experience, journey and message sets a positive example for others.

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Selling yourself might not come naturally to you. For most people, it is not common place to self-promote and it would rarely be appropriate in any other social interaction. But when it comes to writing an application and preparing for an interview, put the time into considering your strengths and what sets you apart from others and ensure that is what you put into your application.

Applications for this year’s WA Training Awards close on Friday 5 May 2017. Sell yourself to our judging panels this year and submit your application today. Visit for further information.

Where are they now – Richard Stocker

Twelve years ago Richard Stocker won the WA Trainee of the Year. Richard was completing his second traineeship as a process plant operator when he won the award and has now gone on to become Sales Manager for international company Stork, a Fluor Company and Director of the Australian Institute for Non-Destructive Testing.

R Stocker Photo“Winning the award really gave my career a kick start and although I haven’t returned to a similar role, the experience was invaluable,” said Richard. “The award certainly opened up leadership positions very quickly. Some of the events that surrounded the Awards, like taking part in the Today’s Skills, Tomorrow’s Leaders program and the New Apprentice Roundtable, really gave me the skills to enter the management team with confidence.”

After completing his traineeship, Richard moved to the Pilbara and took up a position as a Non-Destructive Testing Technician at the Iron Ore Port. He soon moved on to a site supervisor position and then earned a promotion running the WA operations for Australia’s largest NDT company.

“I’m enjoying some frequent travel and meeting with clients and like-minded people, which keeps me engaged and interested in what I’m doing. My position as a Director gives me the opportunity to play an integral part in deciding the way forwards for the institute and allows me to give back to an industry that has given me so much in the past,” said Richard.

For Richard, the best thing about being involved in the WA Training Awards program and representing WA at the Australian Training Awards was meeting and networking with other finalists and like minded professionals.

“I still maintain close contact with the finalists and winners from other states and territories,” he said.

Richard’s advice for any trainee starting their career is to take up every opportunity available to you and to dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

“Don’t ever say no to a job, opportunity or training. Everything opens doors and sends you on your way to bigger and better things. Also, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re too young or inexperienced to do what you want to do. Hard work and enthusiasm trumps experience any day of the week!”

Applications for this year’s WA Training Awards close on Friday 5 May 2017. If you want to take your career to the next level, put yourself in the spotlight and apply today at