• 27-year-old plumbing apprentice Justine Clements at work.
    27-year-old plumbing apprentice Justine Clements at work. Austal/NSC

For one apprentice, changing career pathways from hairdressing to naval shipbuilding has been easy sailing.

While the working days of a shipyard can be a bit of stretch at 10 hours, it’s only for four days a week and the payoff includes a three day weekend - every week. Working in the Perth shipyards of leading Australian naval shipbuilder Austal, 27-year-old plumbing apprentice Justine Clements wouldn’t have it any other way.

 “As a hairdresser I worked six days a week, including every Saturday morning,’’ she said.

“The work was very repetitive and not very challenging and there wasn’t a lot of scope for career advancement.

“Now, working for Austal I get a three day weekend, I am always challenged with my work, I learn something new every week and I can see an exciting career in naval shipbuilding with lots of different pathways ahead of me.’’

Austal is currently building a host of commercial vessels as well as 21 Guardian class patrol boats for the RAN as part of the government’s $90 billion continuous Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise.

When Justine decided to change career paths, she wanted to be involved in something specialised and ‘outside of the norm’.  Her new career path began after seeing an advertisement for a shipbuilding plumbing apprenticeship on the internet.

She applied, got a face-to-face interview with Austal, and won the job. At the Skills West Conference in Perth in August she won the gold medal in the WorldSkills Competition for plumbing.

“There’s so many jobs coming online for young people and apprentices in naval shipbuilding,’’ she said.

“I’ve recommended my friends to sign up with the Naval Shipbuilding College’s Workforce Register because it’s still something not many people know about yet.’’

Next year she is hopeful that she will be working on the Guardian class patrol boats.

“Austal are completely supportive of me exploring roles within naval shipbuilding, from learning a new trade to stepping up to become a supervisor,’’ Justine said.

“It’s a really rewarding career and I can see myself staying in this industry for a very long time.’’

Clements’ decision comes as the Naval Shipbuilding College and Weld Australia announced an agreement to work together in developing a national shipbuilding welding education and training competency framework. The agreement is part of an effort to address a nationwide shortage of certified welders.

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