Army brat. Mother. Plumber.

Where you come from defines you. It shapes where you’re going. Chelsea’s upbringing has not only prepared her for a life in plumbing, but has also given her the confidence to take motherhood, her apprenticeship, and her future in her stride.

8 Dec 2016

Second year TAFE Queensland apprentice plumber and mother Chelsea Sala was born in Germany in 1992 and grew up as the only daughter of a British Soldier on assignment during the Gulf War. A middle child and self-confessed army brat, Chelsea grew up moving from barracks to barracks living in close knit communities in Germany, England, Ireland and Scotland.

Due to her father’s extended absence from home on military operations, Chelsea’s mother Shereen was the glue that kept their family together. With uncompromising dedication and commitment, Shereen played both parenting roles. “Mum is strong, ambitious, hardworking, loyal, loving and fiercely independent – everything I want to be,” Chelsea said.

While her mother is her rock, Chelsea also shares a special bond with her father. “Dad was away for months on end. We were lucky to see him for more than a fortnight at a time,” she said. “His life was chaotic and yet he was always smiling. He always made time for me, he’s my best friend.”

When Chelsea was 13 years old, her father retired from the army and the family moved to Australia. And two years ago Chelsea began a family of her own, giving birth to her beautiful baby daughter Monroe. “Monroe’s a lot like me,” Chelsea said. “She’s strong willed, cheeky, and knows what she wants. She definitely needs boundaries. Come to think of it, now I know what I put my Mum through,” she laughed.

“Motherhood means everything to me. Since having Monroe, my whole life has changed. It’s been challenging, but being a mother isn’t easy for anyone,” she said. “It’s forced me to set goals and achieve them. I’m not thinking of myself anymore. It’s liberated me.”

Now in the second year of her plumbing apprenticeship with East Coast Apprenticeships, twenty-four year old Chelsea firmly believes that her upbringing is shaping her future.

“In Germany we were constantly doing things outside. There was a massive forestry behind our barracks so if I wasn’t making a tree house or cubby, I was being chased by wild boars,” she said. “Breaking things, fixing things or building things, I guess a hands-on career in the trades was inevitable really.”

“I don’t like being chained to a desk. I much prefer to use a drill or a shifter rather than a keyboard or mouse,” she said. “I like using my hands to create things. I get great satisfaction from a hard day’s work and creating something that not only works, but also makes life for someone a little easier,” she said.

“Plumbing is dirty, hard work, but it’s enjoyable. A plumbers’ work isn’t seen. It’s hidden in walls or under floors so the satisfaction has to be personal, that I’ve done a good job,” she said.

“Trades are about technique, not physique. From burst water mains and leaking roofs to sewage blockages, every day is totally different – I like that. One day I could be digging trenches and the next I could be hacksawing or bending copper pipes,” she said.

Chelsea’s upbringing has not only prepared her for a life in plumbing, but has also given her the confidence to take motherhood, her apprenticeship and her future in her stride.

“Being a single mother is hard work and something I don’t take lightly,” she said. “I juggle work and household chores to spend more time with Monroe. I want to be a positive part of her life, just as my mum was in mine. Like most mothers probably do, I struggled to find a healthy work-life balance at first but again, my parents are both supporting me and allowing me to find my feet.”

But Chelsea’s not satisfied with successfully juggling motherhood and an apprenticeship. She has set herself lofty goals and she intends to achieve them with ambition and determination – traits that have been passed on to her from her hardworking parents.

“I see myself being a plumber for the rest of my life. I want to own my own business and expand nationally. I want to provide a future for Monroe. Once I complete my apprenticeship, I plan to enrol in a business course and learn how to set myself up for the future.”

Chelsea Sala is who she is today because of the love and support of her family. She is driven to cast her own shadow and determined to succeed and become a hero for her daughter.


To find out more about trades courses available at TAFE Queensland visit our website or call 1300 308 233.

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