Jaimee Petersen isn't your typical apprentice roadworker. The bright-eyed, enthusiastic Healesville local works at the Sprayline Road Services depot while studying a Certificate 3 in Civil Engineering. Jaimee is also a woman. In an industry dominated by men, she's paving the way for women to transform this type of work from men's business to everyone's business.
What led you to this career?
I wanted to do something different, something that was hands-on. I love being outside, enjoying the 'Melbourne weather'. Whether it's a hot and sunny day, or a bit wet, it's nice to be able to enjoy that. We still have to do a bit of paperwork and things like that, so it's sort of the best of both worlds. You're always working with others and you have the opportunity to drive big machinery in the yard. I just love the variety of it. I love a challenge, and the work can be challenging! Especially the views of some people who think they know who should or shouldn't be in the industry.
What's a day in a life of you?
As I'm doing my Cert 3 in civil construction, there is still a bit of theory side of it, which isn't too bad, but my everyday depends on planned works in the office and either hazard runs or defect runs. Recently, we've been doing more hazard runs. We go out with a buddy or co-worker and check if any signs are down, road maintenance, just the construction side of it, anything that could be hazardous to a vehicle. And we fix that, or report it. Programmed or planned works could be anything between, going out to fix a landslide, or trying to fix little bits and pieces. We don't do major works, that gets contracted out.
What are some of the challenging parts to the work you?
We attend vehicle crashes. Recently, I went to a truck turnover. Depending on if there is a fatality or not, that is what you're seeing. I went to a truck rollover on a car, and a motorbike incident on the highway. It's very varied, and luckily I haven't been personally affected by anything, but it can take a toll.
Are there many females in this line of work?
There are a few more females within the office environment here, but I am one of the only female apprentices from around this region. I guess it's a challenge because I don't necessarily have someone else to chat to about certain things. Generally speaking, it's not too bad, I think the industry is getting used to the fact that females will jump on board if encouraged.
What barriers to women face in this industry?
Being a female in a very male-dominated environment, that's the biggest challenge. I know I won't have the same strength as some guys, but just trying to prove myself and to say to myself, I can pick up that shovel, I can do this, I can drive machinery. There may be the occasional guy saying something, and I do stand my ground because I have a strong personality, but I know that other women may not be able to do that so confidently. On the other hand, there is so much variety of opportunities within this industry, you can analyse rocks, work in the office, be on the road doing manual work. There is a lot more that I didn't know about this industry that women might be interested in pursuing.
What do you think women bring to this industry?
I think we add a level of detail that often men might not see. We can just offer a different perspective which may not have been viewed before.
What would say to a woman considering this line of work?
It's a great challenge. Some people may say, oh it's such male industry. Well just prove them wrong. Actually, it's not really proving them wrong, it’s more about having a go. If you do want to have a go at something different that is outdoors, you're driving machinery, you get to do a variety of things, no day is the same. It's also great if people are interested in the construction side of things, it's a perfect foot in the door. For an apprentice, it's all about learning as you go, so there isn't the added pressure of 'you should know'. It's a great way of being able to grasp what's happening in the industry. At the end of the day, you are no worse off. If there's something that's slightly intriguing, you just give it a shot.