Natalie, a locksmith-turned-TAFE teacher from Kinglake West, is no stranger to challenges in the workplace, often being the only female in a male-dominated industry.
“I’ve found in locksmithing you have to navigate people and very different situations. It could be a domestic violence situation, where a woman might feel more comfortable with another female doing their locks for them.
“Being able to address sensitive situations like this is a very good skill to have and you’re earning people’s trust. That side of locksmithing involves being compassionate, using people skills and social skills. Having all of that really does give you a huge confidence boost, knowing that you’re capable of doing all those sorts of things.”
Natalie’s passion for locksmithing came from a childhood spent in her parents’ suburban hardware store. Natalie’s father inspired her to pursue a trade after seeing her thrive with the practical experience in the shop.
Natalie undertook her qualifications aged 21, studying nights at Melbourne Polytechnic. After trade school, she went on to secure a position with Chubb Safes as a safe technician.
As a woman establishing herself in a male-dominated industry, Natalie reflects on some difficult times.
“I grew up surrounded by males, with my dad and brother in the hardware store. I was used to that environment, but it’s confronting when you’re thrown into a male-dominated setting. I found myself laughing my way through times when I should have stood up for myself and said “no, that’s not right”.
During Natalie’s early years of work, she remembers a culture of leaders insulting their young tradies in a misguided attempt to get them to work harder. Instead, it would often make them feel worthless and doubt their abilities.
“Thankfully, things have changed now, and I’m glad there’s support for women who are coming into the industry.”
After running her own locksmithing small business across Victoria, Natalie has found a new niche applying her locksmithing skills and experience as a TAFE teacher.
Locksmithing is really diverse, says Natalie. “A lot of people think it’s just cutting keys – it’s not. You can specialise in automotive, or safe work, being a safe technician, or working on houses or commercial alarms. There are so many different areas of locksmithing that you can go into and not be bored with. Your skillset is very broad.”
At 38, Natalie commenced teaching at Melbourne Polytechnic as part of its ‘trainer under supervision program’ to get hands-on experience in the classroom.
“I love engaging with people and making a difference. As a teacher, it’s been rewarding to be able to help people. Teaching is a continual challenge which is exactly what I need to stay stimulated,” says Natalie.
TAFE teaching has been an opportunity for Natalie to share her craft and pass on years of on-the-job experience with students in a practical setting. It’s never too late to start a new career, and, by becoming a TAFE teacher, Natalie is transferring her expertise to the next generation of locksmiths.
Melbourne Polytechnic promotes TAFE teaching as a flexible and rewarding profession; a great option for industry experts wanting to pursue a new career path.
“My favourite thing about being a teacher is how fun it is. I find it rewarding when a student has hit a wall and, with some patience and gentle encouragement, they improve in leaps and bounds.
“You can really see that they’re proud of themselves and that for me is a fantastic thing to be a part of.”