DIESEL FITTER: Gemma Hartwig completed her apprenticeship in Dalby and won Young Apprentice of the Year in 2017.
DIESEL FITTER: Gemma Hartwig completed her apprenticeship in Dalby and won Young Apprentice of the Year in 2017. Contributed

Young woman makes mark on male-dominated industry

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.

It seems Gemma Hartwig can do whatever she puts her mind to.

In celebration of Queensland Women's Week, the Rural Weekly spoke to Gemma - who was enduring a frosty -24 degree temperature - to find out how the young woman learned to make her mark in a male-dominated industry.

OVERSEAS ADVENTURE

LIVING her dream of going to Canada, the 20-year-old is working with a family on Coulee Creek Farms in Alberta, a stark contrast to the beef cattle farm she grew up on in Dalby, southwest Queensland.

"I've been wanting to come to Canada for years, ever since I was in school. I decided to just pack up my things and go," she said.

"I'm living with a family, they have four kids - six, four, three and 18 months.

"They have angus cattle and they also use it as a wedding venue.

"I help out when the weddings are on and I help out with cattle and do au pairing as well.

 

"I just decided to quit my job and come to Canada.

"I kept putting it off and wanted to take the leap.

"It's just 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 just 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 when she was young she 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."

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 years 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 may 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 Canada but is keen to keep it going when she gets back.

HARD WORK

Gemma said she worked "really hard" to win 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.

"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."

FAMILY PROPERTY

"WE had a dairy farm in Maclagan. We still have the land but the dairy isn't running any more," she said.

"My parents have land in Dalby, where we have a house and cattle.

"Our main farm is in Goombungee. It's a couple of hundred acres and we run beef cattle."


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