Diesel darling makes her mark in a man’s world
SHE is a qualified diesel fitter, 2017 Young Apprentice of the Year, Founder of She Can and is currently working on an angus stud in Canada - Gemma Hartwig can do whatever she puts her mind to.
After International Woman's Day, Big Rigs spoke to Gemma, who was enduring a frosty -24 degree temperatures, to find out how the young woman learned to make her mark in a male-dominated industry.
Living her dream of going to Canada, the 20-year-old is living and working with a family on Coulee Creek Farms in Alberta, a stark contrast to the beef cattle farm where she grew up in Dalby.
"I've been wanting to come to Canada for years, ever since I was in school" she said.
"I kept putting it off and wanted to take the leap.
"It's weird waking up every morning and seeing snow."
A career well-fitted
Gemma is a qualified diesel fitter.
She started a school-based apprenticeship when she was 14.
"I originally wanted to leave school and become a hairdresser in Year 10. I did a careers test and a mechanic came up as a suggestion," she said.
"I did a week's work experience in Year 10 with a local earth moving company in Dalby.
"At the end of it I asked them if they would be interested in taking on a school-based trainee. A week later they called the school and said they'd love to have me on.
"I did that through Year 11 and 12 and it transitioned to a full-time apprenticeship once I finished school."
Gemma said she was glad she stayed in school to complete Year 11 and 12. She became School Captain in Year 12.
When she was younger, Gemma worked on tractors and farming equipment with her granddad.
"My granddad, my uncle, and my great granddad are all mechanics," Gemma said.
"I was used to helping them out in the shed and following them around with tools.
"My parents weren't surprised when I chose that career path."
A girl in a man's world
Gemma spoke about some of the issues she faced being a female in a male-dominated industry.
"I think because you are a girl you have to be on your game and try and do things five times better than the boys," she said.
"Because you don't want people to say 'oh well she's just a girl'.
"What hurt me the most was when there were first year's getting better jobs than me and getting sent out on site, when I wasn't.
"And I was told it was because I was a girl."
Gemma started the organisation She Can to help support other girls who might want to go into a male-dominated profession.
"I know how hard it can be sometimes," she said.
"It's a lot easier now for women starting an apprenticeship in a male-dominated vocation, but when I started when I was 14 I felt like there were no resources.
"Hopefully it can be a support group and encourage women to join the industry and stay in the industry.
"I think having a group like She Can when I had started would have really helped, like having a big sister.
"There are plenty of male role models that help you but sometimes you just need a girl."
Gemma is currently taking a break from She Can while she is in Canada but is keen to keep it going when she gets back.
Hard work pays off
Gemma said she worked really hard to win the Queensland Apprentice of the Year in 2017.
"I entered in 2014 for School-based Apprentice of the Year. I won region and state but didn't take out the national award," she said.
"I'm a pretty competitive person, so I told myself I was going to work really hard and, when I qualified, I was going to win Apprentice of the Year in 2017.
"By the time I got to the awards it wasn't about winning for me, even though I'd worked so hard to get there.
"I just wanted to take a step back, take it all in and mingle with like-minded people."