Quest for trade quals leads to high-powered Navy careers

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Andrew Herring (author), ABIS Thomas Sawtell (photographer)

Topic(s): Training

Leading Seaman Marine Technician Grant Cooney, front, and Leading Seaman Marine Technician Joshua Finnigan carry out switching schedule work onboard HMAS Choules. (photo: ABIS Thomas Sawtell)
Leading Seaman Marine Technician Grant Cooney, front, and Leading Seaman Marine Technician Joshua Finnigan carry out switching schedule work onboard HMAS Choules.

A desire to get technical trade qualifications has led to high-powered navy careers for Leading Seaman Marine Technicians Joshua Finnigan and Grant Cooney.

Both are serving in Landing Ship Dock HMAS Choules, maintaining the high voltage electrical systems at the heart of the 16,000 tonne amphibious support ship’s engineering plant.

They looked to Navy as a career choice when their civilian jobs failed to offer opportunities to gain trade qualifications.

Leading Seaman Finnigan joined the Navy in 2014 while working as a trades assistant for an electrical company that wasn’t prepared to invest in its people.

“It was only a private company and they didn’t want to put on any apprentices at the time because they would never put any time back into the company, they would just go straight to the mines back in those days.

“So I thought, I’ll join Navy and try and get a trade out of it, which I did. It worked out pretty well.”

When Leading Seaman Cooney joined the Navy in 2015 he was doing IT work for a Melbourne car parts company and decided he didn’t want to sit at a desk forever and would prefer to get his hands dirty.

“I knew I wanted some sort of trade skill, but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted,” Leading Seaman Cooney said.

“As a marine technician you get a chance to sample a bit of everything.”

They both chose to specialise in electrical after gaining experience across each of the ship’s three engineering sections: propulsion (diesel and hydraulics), electrical and shipwrights, which includes fabrication, refrigeration, plumbing and other marine technical areas.

Having now completed their Certificate 3 course to become qualified electrical fitters, they have enhanced their trade qualifications with more specialised Certificate 4 courses.

Leading Seaman Marine Technician Grant Cooney, left, and Leading Seaman Marine Technician Joshua Finnigan prepare to enter the High Voltage Switchboard room onboard HMAS Choules.

Leading Seaman Marine Technician Grant Cooney, left, and Leading Seaman Marine Technician Joshua Finnigan prepare to enter the High Voltage Switchboard room onboard HMAS Choules.

Leading Seaman Finnigan studied high voltage electrical systems while Leading Seaman Cooney gained qualifications in Control and Monitoring Instrumentation.

It hasn’t all been work and study, with plenty of international travel to go with it.

With the exception of a six-month exchange with the Royal New Zealand Navy for Leading Seaman Cooney, both have done all their sea service in Choules, with two South West Pacific deployments to picturesque destinations during 2019.

“The trips are definitely better now we are doing work in the South Pacific.

“Vanuatu and Noumea were last trip but we’ve also done Noumea, Fiji and Samoa this trip, and Dili,” Leading Seaman Finnigan recalled.

“And Cairns, which everyone loves,” Leading Seaman Cooney added.

The quest for qualifications continues. Both leading seamen are now working towards achieving their Marine Systems Manager qualifications before the end of the year, a key prerequisite for promotion to Petty Officer.

“It’s not an easy qualification to get. You have to put your head down and work for it,” Leading Seaman Finnigan said.

Imagery is available on the Navy Image Gallery: http://images.navy.gov.au/S20192632.