Growing up, Rotorua's Jess Curtis always knew she would forge a career in a male-dominated area.

Influenced by her "truckie" dad and her grandfather, who was a mechanic, Curtis races stock cars and also shares their passion for old-school classic cars.

Now she has been recognised with a national award.

"I wanted to be an auto electrician but when I was still at school I was encouraged to give general electrical work a go," Curtis said. "Our careers adviser also sent my NCEA results to the Electrical Training Company [Etco] and I took on a bit of work experience.


About six months out of school she received a call asking if she would like an electrical apprenticeship.

"It was a Friday and they needed an answer later that day as the apprenticeship started the following Monday. Obviously I said yes.

"Things just fell into place from there."

Currently employed by Etco, Curtis is "hosted" by electrical businesses as part of her training.

With only a year left of her three-year apprenticeship, Curtis's dedication to the job has been recognised with a win at the fourth National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) Awards in Wellington.

"A staff member from one of my host families sent my CV and a blurb as an entry to the awards. From there I completed a phone interview and was named as one of the 39 finalists over six categories."

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Curtis was a finalist in the Apprentice and Student Award.

On Friday night at the awards ceremony she said she was shocked to hear her name announced as the winner.

"There were women there who had done, and were still doing, amazing things and I was thinking to myself that I wasn't really up to that standard."

Curtis said she had to make a speech while her heart was "beating so fast". "I didn't know what to say, I think I thanked my family and that was about it."

Award judges were impressed with Curtis's commitment to problem solving and working through issues to a successful conclusion in a technically challenging role.

Judges also commented on her commitment to giving back to the industry by attending careers events to share her experiences, while encouraging young women to consider a trade apprenticeship.

Wanting to gain employment in Rotorua at the end of her apprenticeship, Curtis said she hoped job offers would come in during the last six months of her training.

"My plan is to own a house by the time I'm 23 so if I can stay with Mum and Dad until then and save, it's do-able."