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


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