In the third and final IOQ Webster Scholarship profile, Alan Titchall catches up with Jake Rouse, the manager of the Western Hills Quarry operation in Whangarei, to talk about his experiences with the scholarship.
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.
He quickly worked up the ranks to become, at the age of 22, the youngest quarry manager in this country and the youngest known branch vice president of the IOQ (Northland) and, eventually, 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.
In 2013 Jake was one of a group of four students at Kamo High School selected to talk to Alistair during one of his school visits in the Whangarei district.
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.”
However, 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 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.”
The IoQ Webster Scholarship
When did you become aware of the scholarship?
I first became aware of it when I was with the Northland IOQ, and never really thought of applying for it myself, but thought it seemed like a brilliant thing they do.
What made you change your mind?
After meeting Matt Webster from Websters’ Lime at a couple of conferences, and after winning the Q&M young Leaders’ Award at the national conference in 2018, I was approached by Matt and offered the scholarship. I jumped at the chance as I was absolutely stoked and very grateful for the opportunity.
How did you put the scholarship into effect in terms of training?
I wasn’t too sure on whether I was keen to do my A grade after just recently acquiring my B grade and C.O.C, but once I was given the scholarship, I booked in my A Grade Quarry Managers Ticket, which I have since completed.
How has this changed your job?
This has helped me grow in my position as the Quarry Manager at Western Hills Quarry, and further my industry knowledge. And it has also given me the skills to help and train my staff while they move through their unit standards.
Would you encourage others to apply for this scholarship?
The Webster family are incredibly supportive and approachable people, who never forget a face! I am forever grateful for the scholarship and how it has helped me forward in my career and getting to network with great people like the Webster family.
Absolutely, I recommend the scholarship to others. You have nothing to lose and if you have been lacking that motivation or reason to start your qualifications, then this provides the perfect incentive opportunity to apply and get the ball rolling!
One of tomorrow’s industry leaders
After joining Clements Contractors, Jake so impressed his boss, Murray Clements, that he was nominated by the company for a Q&M Tomorrow’s Leaders Award in 2018.
Murray said in his citation at the time; “Jake has become been heavily involved in the development and implementation of systems in our Western Hills Quarry and is now the assistant quarry manager there.
“In late 2017 he took over the role of vice president of the Northland branch of the IOQ. I believe Jake is an excellent example of the future of our industry.”
Jake was presented with that award, which came with $1000, at the 2018 AQA/IOQ Conference in Hamilton.