Inspire : Public Works July Aug 2013
15 surprise. "I knew going into the job that there could be views of being a female that I may not be as good as my male colleagues," Giacomin says. Clothier and Giacomin say they have overcome these challenges by being assertive and effcient in their work, proving their value in order to earn the respect of colleagues. While this experience is, to an extent, common to all young engineers at the dawn of their career, it is perhaps more acute for females in the traditionally male-dominated profession. Both women agree more needs to be done industry- wide to promote engineering as an accepting and attractive feld. Targeting children from a young age, Clothier suggests inviting work experience students to accompany engineers on projects from development through to completion. She acknowledges there are schemes already in place to attract students, such as the IPWEA-supported Build-A-Bridge program, but says more energy needs to be devoted to presenting local engineering as a fulflling and fexible career option. Highlighting fexibility in the workplace is particularly important if the industry hopes to attract women and counter the perception of a males-only domain, Clothier says. "Not only will you retain staff, but attract female engineers back into the work force after they have been on mater nity leave," she says. Giacomin recommends establishing a traineeship program through local councils to ensure rural towns gain engineers. "Many rural towns have young people like me that were not sure of their fnal HSC marks,” she says. “A traineeship with full fnancial and peer support to study whilst working in the feld is very attractive." While there is a wealth of career opportunities available in rural areas, Bailey says there are negative connotations attached to local government engineering. Of all the other engineering students she knows -- from both the University of NSW and the University of Technology, Sydney -- only one has completed work experience in local government, and has no intention of going back. "When I have told my peers what I do for work, some tell me it's not 'real' engineering, or that my career will soon freeze and I should get out of there as quickly as possible," she says. "Others think local government engineers are incredibly lazy and only do the bare minimum to get by." However, the experiences of Clothier, Giacomin and Bailey suggest this perception could not be further from the truth. From the very start, all three were thrown in the deep end, taking on responsibilities for which they were not necessarily prepared. Admitting to feeling overwhelmed by their workload, all agree that the challenges gave them the opportunity to prove themselves and strengthen their capabilities. Shortly after starting as a trainee Civil Engineer at Lithgow City Council in the NSW Central Tablelands, Bailey took on a 12-month maternity leave position as the council's acting Asset and Project Engineer. "There was a two-day handover period for the job, which was basically a crash course in how to be a project engineer," she says. "From then on I was on my own to fgure out how to complete the job effectively.” Bailey describes the past eight months spent in this role as the "craziest, most challenging" of her career, but adds that she wouldn't pass up the opportunities the work has given her. Experiencing a similar lack of guidance and super vision at the start of her traineeship, Clothier agrees that while you may feel out of your depth, the only way to know what you are capable of is to take on every opportunity. An invaluable resource for Clothier as she found her feet, she says, was the mentorship she received from the council's long-standing operators and labourers. "Their knowledge of the local area, what works and what doesn't, their contacts and knowledge is phenomenal," she says. "Having great mentors is what has kept me going in the times when I thought I shouldn’t be in this feld.” ••• More energy needs to be devoted to presenting local engineering as a ful lling and exible career option. CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION Have your say on this story. Visit http://goo.gl/Bv39D to comment on this article.
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