Apprentice Arborists Briar Waugh and Elly Driver are the first females Kimberley Tree Care has employed, and with great success.
The two second-year apprentices, based in Broome, laugh at the thought that they would have ended up working in the industry, saying it was something they “definitely” didn’t consider when they were younger.
“I didn’t know what I would be growing up. I jumped from industry to industry but was always very hands-on and worked outdoors if I could. So, I think more or less when I found this position, I was falling into the right place,” Driver says.
Both women say they envisaged themselves working outside and doing a job that was quite physical.
“It was hard for me to imagine what I’d do. I was always into doing outdoor stuff. I did think adventure tourism or something like that, but I really didn’t know,” Waugh says.
‘Our gender is not a disadvantage’
While they may receive an odd comment or a surprised look from a customer who hasn’t seen female arborists before, Waugh and Driver feel their gender doesn’t hold them back.
“I think for us, it’s also a very personal thing. We are both confident in our gender and in our capabilities,” Driver says.
“So, we are proud to be in a male-dominated industry because we know our capabilities and strengths regardless of being female or male. And also, of course it helps to have a crew that is accepting. For us, our gender is not a disadvantage whatsoever.”
Strength is important
Much of the day-to-day work of an arborist is heavily physical, including climbing, lifting heavy equipment at heights, pulling large branches by ropes etc. So, building and maintaining their physical strength is important.
“You’re holding big chainsaws in big trees, so you’ve got to have some strength,” Driver says.
However, Waugh says challenges on the job can be overcome.
“You just find your own workaround for some things, and keep improving yourself and your strength alongside,” Waugh says.
Confidence and the right team are key
For other women who may be thinking about starting an apprenticeship, Waugh and Driver say “give it a go”.
“Otherwise, you might always be questioning whether you could have enjoyed it or not. It also depends on whether you find the right crew or right workmates, then you will always be supported,” Waugh says.
Driver says finding the right career path often involves trying multiple employers or teams in the same industry.
“I think it’s really important to have confidence in yourself and to enter an industry you’re interested in. If for some reason it doesn’t work out because of your crew or the team you’re involved in, possibly try another group or another crew because it’s not necessarily the industry, it could be the company you’re working for or crew you’re around. They aren’t all the same just because of the industry,” she says.
The apprentices and their employer say they feel very proud of their progress so far and are committed to further developing their skills.
Powered by CCIWA, Apprenticeship Support Australia (ASA), can facilitate employment, manage training and offer support and advice to companies seeking apprentices to boost their workforce. Contact ASA at [email protected] or phone 1300 363 831.