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Apprentices Needed to Keep Melbourne Trams Moving

25th Oct 2022

Applications are now open for overhead apprentices to work on the world’s largest tram network, keeping it running safely and reliably for millions of passengers every week.

Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said the four-year Yarra Trams apprenticeship program prepares apprentices to safely maintain and manage the network of overhead wires that power the tram network. Upon completion, apprentices will be equipped with a Certification III qualification in ESI Power Systems (Rail Traction).

In the first two years of training, overhead apprentices mix working on de-energised infrastructure alongside experienced lines workers before apprentices take a significant step to working on live overhead wires alongside trainers and experienced lines workers.

Numerous safety controls are in place to ensure workers’ safety – including using specialised live line techniques, working from insulated platforms and wearing insulating equipment.

Overhead workers are crucial to the safe operation of the tram network, with technicians performing important maintenance and renewal work to reduce the number of unplanned disruptions, as well as responding to incidents involving overhead lines such as oversize trucks or falling tree limbs taking them down. Overhead crews are on-call 24 hours a day to respond to incidents and keep Melburnians safe.

Overhead lines work on Australia’s rail networks has been a traditionally male dominated area of work, but through investment in skills, a focus on diversity, and implementation of the overhead apprenticeship program, Yarra Trams is working towards a more diverse workforce, including expanding on the number of women already in its overhead and power teams.

A native of West Melbourne, Nicole Blethyn is in the third year of the four-year apprenticeship and says she wouldn’t change her career direction for anything, despite hoping to be an author growing up and holding a degree in literature.

Moving to Yarra Trams in 2020 from a previous career in retail management where professional growth and development was limited, Nicole was immediately struck by how quickly she started developing skills through on-the-job training, with no prior experience with power tools, electricity, or working with heights.

Before joining Yarra Trams Nicole saw herself as outdoorsy and outgoing, and really values the ability to work outside every day, as well as the work-life balance that comes with the job. Nicole is expected to become a fully qualified lines worker in early 2024.

The tram network runs on more than 500 kilometres of overhead contact wire hung above the tram network, powering up to 500 trams at a time.

All of the power used by Melbourne’s trams is offset by solar power generated at two large solar installations in the north of Victoria, making trams one of the most environmentally friendly ways of getting around the city.

Applications for the overhead apprenticeship roles are now open with applicants encouraged to visit the Yarra Trams careers webpage. Working on the overhead network is open to people of all background and interests. With a competitive salary, all applicants need to bring is positive attitude and a willingness to learn.

Quote attributable to Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll

“Yarra Trams’ dedicated staff do a great job of keeping people moving and this is a great chance to make a difference and be a key part of keeping Melbourne’s transport network moving.”

Quote attributable to Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Vicki Ward

“This is an exciting opportunity to work on the world’s largest tram network, helping millions of Victorians get around every week.”

Quote attributable to Yarra Trams CEO Julien Dehornoy

“Our overhead teams are critical to the safe and reliable operation of the world’s largest tram network, and I’m delighted that we’re nurturing and developing the next generation of overhead workers through our apprenticeship program.

“I’m especially proud of the diversity that we’re growing in a traditionally male-dominated trade, which is helping make Yarra Trams more representative of the city we serve.”

Quote attributable to Yarra Trams Third Year Overhead Apprentice Nicole Blethyn

“I knew that I’d be working with a lot of blokes when I applied for the role, but it’s been a really incredible experience overall, with everyone really supportive and I love coming to work every day.

“Even after growing up riding Melbourne’s trams, never in a million years did I ever consider a job working on the network, let alone on the overheads! I’ve had a taste now, and I’m 100% sure that this is the career for me, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

“If you’re even a little bit interested in this apprenticeship, I’d urge to you put your name forward – it’s been an amazing experience so far.”