From left: Jason Hinton, Quarry Divisional Manager; Jake Rouse, Western Hills Quarry Manager; and Alistair McIntyre – also known as Doug the Digger.
Alan Titchall catches up with the country’s youngest quarry manager, Jake Rouse, who looks after the Western Hills Quarry operation in Whangarei for Clements Contractors.
Jake Rouse left school at the age of 16 to join the quarrying industry in Northland as one of Alistair McIntyre’s (aka Doug the Digger) young proteges.
At the age of 22 he is now the youngest quarry manager in this country, the youngest known branch vice president of the IOQ (Northland), and Alistair’s boss.
His fast-moving career story starts with Alistair’s Youth into Industry Programme, which helps young people learn the basic skills to operate excavators and start a career in quarrying and civil contracting.
Jakes admits he wasn’t interested in school studies.
“I was selected to listen to Alistair because all I was doing in class was sleeping.”
After talking to Alistair Jake was very interested in machines and he passed the obligatory drug test when he turned up for a week of civil and quarry site visits.
At the end of the week Jake was hooked and was initially placed with Fulton Hogan before an opportunity with Dickson’s quarry doing work experience one day a week, under a Youth into Industry course.
At Dicksons they were so impressed with Jake that they offered him weekend and school holiday work.
“My first job was in the pouring rain,” Jake recalls.
“And I got to sit in a digger with a heater and a radio and break rocks with a rock breaker attachment.
“I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.”
That was the end of school.
During his time at Dickson’s he became involved in the Northland branch of the IOQ as a member of the committee and won ‘Northland Quarry Employee of the year’ at the inaugural Northland Quarry Awards.
Jake worked with Dickson’s for three and a half years learning “a lot” before joining Clements Contractors.
“Murray Clements was looking for young fellas because his workforce was getting older, and I saw that as an opportunity to move on,” says Jake.
His first job at Clements Contractors was on a contract for loading rock onto a barge to be shipped down to Auckland for the rebuild of Ferguson Wharf.
As site supervisor Jake was responsible for the site health and safety and smooth running of this operation, which involved good communication and coordination with the operators of the diggers, trucks and the skipper of the barge.
After that project he was posted to Clements’ Western Hills Quarry where he built up his quarry skills and achieved his B grade National certificate and COC.
“On my first day at Clements I was sent straight to the classroom to start studying for my B grade.
“That was very eye-opening. Having come from Dickson’s Quarry I knew things were changing in regard to health and safety legislation after Pike River, but
I didn’t realise how massive that all was!
“It took about a year and a bit to finish the actual certificate and then you’ve got to go through the Certificate of Competence and sit in front of a board of examiners.
“I did the COC about eight months after I got my actual ticket and you really have to know your stuff to pass.
“I think I wrote nearly 80 something papers. That was more than I wrote in my entire time at school!”
Jake drove down to Auckland to sit his oral COC exam.
“I took all my paperwork with me because a lot of the questions are based on legislation and ‘what you do’ in certain scenarios. They then ask you to relay your answers back to the legislation.
“My exam appointment wasn’t until 8am, but I got down there at 5.30am and parked outside the hotel and read over key points in my papers. If I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t have passed.
“It was really stressful. The worst part is that you walk out of the room and you don’t know whether you passed or failed, because they don’t tell you.
“You have to wait for the ticket or fail notice to turn up in the mail and that takes up to three weeks.”
With the support of Murray Clements, Jason Hinton (Clements Quarry Division manager), and the Clements team, Jake is now working on his A Grade certificate, while his B grade extractive ticket and COC allows him to manage up to four workers in a quarry.
Ironically, one of those workers is Alistair McIntyre who does sub-contracting work at Western Hills Quarry.
“And that makes me so proud, says Alistair.
“And he’s a great boss.”
“The most satisfying thing in my career is identifying and developing young people to take on leadership roles, such as Jake.
“It’s also about us old buggers stepping back, believing in them, supporting them, giving them opportunity, a bit of guidance and then standing back and letting them take over.”