The first woman to complete her civil trades certification may soon be followed by another – her daughter.
Pearl Jury is civil operations manager for Gair Contracting in Napier, and is the first female in New Zealand to gain the certification, leading the way for women working in the infrastructure industry.
More than 250 workers have gained the Civil Trades Certification (CTC) since it began in 2015.
Jury, who has more than 15 years’ experience in the civil sector, says the journey was “completely worth it”.
“It’s been a really good thing to do. You just get to see everything you’ve done, and everything you’ve learned over the years and have it recognised. It’s quite gratifying.
“I’d definitely recommend it to other people. It means clients can see really easily what you and your team can do. I think it will get to the point where everybody has to do it.”
Working in a male-dominated line of work hasn’t always been a bed of roses but, “I always gave as good as I got and in the end we all just got on with the job”, she says.
“It’s definitely changing and definitely a lot better now; a lot more accepting.”
And now, Jury’s daughter has followed in her footsteps to work with heavy machinery in the civil contracting sector.
Jury’s advice for other young women considering entering the civil contracting sector is to make sure they enjoy it, as she does. “It’s a solid, well-paying option. You will get your hands dirty, you will have to work hard, so just make sure you love it.
“I think the best advice is to show you care. If you get the oldest machine to start with, take care of it really well. Do your job well, have a good attitude, be willing to learn.
“There’s absolutely no reason girls can’t do it and in the end, it’s really satisfying work to do. You can look back and see something you’ve created and feel really good about it.”
Civil construction was a career choice Jury discovered by accident. After moving into Napier after 27 years farming, her husband Chris landed a job as a grader driver at Gair.
“I just happened to go in with him one day, and got on the digger, as you do, and started working. And that’s how it all started really.”
Despite her project management responsibilities these days Jury can still be found driving a digger most days.
“I still just really love it.”
And now she particularly enjoys passing on her knowledge and experience to the newcomers who start with the business. “That’s really satisfying – to see them come along and pick up the skills.”
Gair Contracting is one of the few civil companies in the country run by a woman – Bailey Gair, who is also a councillor on the national executive of Civil Contractors NZ.
Jury decided to do her formal CTC at the suggestion of Gair Contracting general manager Richard Jardine, who says her success has given him renewed pride in her skills and respect for her experience.
“She’s so humble, it’s been great for her to really have her knowledge officially recognised. I know she teaches me new things all the time.”
He believes the CTC will soon be seen as a compulsory part of working in the civil trades sector.
“It’s just the best way for clients to get a clear picture of what our people can do. I think they’ll probably demand it eventually.
“It’s also going to be one of the best tools we’ll have to train and retain staff. It shows that we’re prepared to support our people and, with a skills shortage out there, that’s important.”
The nationally recognised accreditation programme for civil contractors is run through infrastructure industry training organisation (ITO) Connexis and the ITO’s board chairman Brian Warren said it was “fantastic” to see women going through the qualifications process.
“It’s incredibly important to the industry that we address the gender imbalance within it.”
Warren says the CTC has crucial benefits to employers and employees, and the infrastructure sector overall. “For employers it improves the productivity, efficiency and safety of the workforce, showcases their work for potential clients, and attracts good staff.
“For employees it provides a career path, the potential for higher income and recognition of their skills.”
“It means we can address the problems of an ageing workforce, and a skills shortage, while making sure our people are fully equipped for the demands of the work.”