Jessie Sutton is a young woman on a path to success in the quarrying industry. Her career recently received a boost thanks to the IOQ’s youth programme. BY MARY SEARLE BELL.
TO IDENTIFY AND support young, up-and-coming leaders in the extractive industry, the Institute of Quarrying NZ set up a youth programme.
This year, four young adults were selected by the IOQ executive as part of the programme; they were Luke Balsillie, Chris Marshall, Dylan Kelcher and Jessie Sutton.
With support from the BR Webster Educational Scholarship Fund, they attended this year’s QuarryNZ Conference in Auckland.
Jessie Sutton thoroughly enjoyed the conference, saying the technical presentations were very interesting.
However, the networking opportunities proved highly valuable too. As part of the youth programme, she was paired with a mentor at the conference, Dean Torstonson of Orica, who guided her throughout the conference and ensured she met all the right people.
“He has been really great – we’re still in contact. At the conference Dean and his wife Petrina, who’s the secretary/treasurer of the IOQ, introduced me to a lot of people,” she says.
One of those people was Paul Sutton, CEO of IOQ Australia. Paul subsequently invited Jessie to attend the IQA’s Women in Quarrying event in Sydney in August.
WIQ aims to promote networking amongst women within the extractive industry and to encourage and create opportunities for personal and professional development.
Orica generously sponsored Jessie on the trip, providing flights and accommodation. Dean also arranged for her to visit Oricia’s Sydney operation.
“They took me round their technical sites – to their lab – and then out to a blasting site. It was neat to see their set up and to see how things work on the blasting side,” she says. “They let me help run out wires and then I got to push the button on a blast – that was a real highlight of the trip.”
At the WIQ conference Jessie was thrilled to meet so many women working in the industry.
“Most of the women at the Auckland conference were partners of men in the industry, so it was great to see successful women in the industry and to hear their stories.
“It was much more relaxed too. And very inspiring.”
Jessie has been working at Rodney Aggregates, just north of Warkworth, for nearly four years.
She was working in hospitality when her mother, a truck driver who regularly goes into its Whangaripo Quarry, heard they had a vacancy and encouraged her to apply.
“I started as an office administrator, but after about six months my boss said to me, “you seem pretty competent, want to have a go?”
“He let me have a jam on all the gear. Now I’m an operator, and drive everything from the water cart and dump trucks to the loaders, excavators and the rock breaker.
“The loader is definitely my favourite – it keeps me nice and busy.”
She quickly got her Wheels, Tracks and Rollers endorsement, First Aid Certificate, and achieved a Certificate in Extractive Industries Level 3.
Jessie was also recently selected to be the company’s health and safety representative with a unanimous vote from the team.
She is still studying, and is currently about halfway through a B Grade quarry manager’s certificate of competence.
“I’m busy learning about the legislation and requirements for running a quarry.
“I love the fact I’m constantly learning. I missed this in the hospitality industry – the opportunity to improve.”
More than that, Jessie simply loves the industry.
“I love how it’s on such a large scale – it really is a giant sandpit. And they’re really nice people,” she says. “Helpful, knowledgeable and always willing to teach.
“They put a lot into their people, and if you’re willing to work they’ll support you all the way.”
Looking to the future, Jessie wants to get her A Grade quarry manager’s certificate of competence, and suspects she’ll eventually find a job behind a desk.
“I really enjoy the training and people side,” she says, thinking she may like to get into recruiting for the industry.
“However it plays out, I think it’s important to understand all aspects of the operation,” she says.
She is certainly passionate about the industry.
“I think quarrying has a bad rap, which it doesn’t deserve,” she says. “Communities will complain, saying that we’re environmentally unfriendly without realising that the people working there are part of the community, and that the quarry has a lot of positive impact in the workers’ lives.
“The role a quarry plays in a community is unappreciated.
“Quarries have also come a long way when it comes to caring for the environment. A lot of my current B Grade quarry manager’s training focuses on environmental mitigation.”
As for the predominately male workforce, that hasn’t fazed her one bit.
“It’s been a lot better than I expected – the guys have been really great and very supportive,” she says.
“They’re quite happy with me, and I’m quite happy with them.”