Former QMEA Ambassador Townsville’s Kassandra Palmer 17

When former Kirwin State High School student Kassandra Palmer started work at Hastings Deering this week, she joined six other females amongst 40 new apprentices proving her belief it was no longer unusual for women to work in the resources sector.

The 17-year-old apprentice joined 39 others from across Queensland and the Northern Territory for two weeks of induction training before returning to the Townsville workshop where she will train as a diesel fitter.

Walking through the doors of the Brisbane headquarters of the machinery giant was also a case of de je vu for the 17-year-old, who toured the facility in 2019, ahead of starting year 12 after she was chosen by the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy to receive a QMEA ambassador award.

“My experiences with Queensland Resources Council really opened my eyes that being a female in the resources sector is not unusual anymore, there was a lot of validation that I had support if I took on a role,” Miss Palmer said.

“My father is a truckie, my brother a diesel fitter and my mother worked as a supervisor at Hastings Deering so I guess you can say I was born into it,” Ms Palmer said. “My year 12 studies were all oriented to taking on an apprenticeship: 60 students out of 300 at my school applied for a special trade training course and I was the only female in the 12 who were ultimately selected. If there was a ‘cert course’ I could do that would help me I did it.  I also did three years of work experience, so I was very focussed.

“As well as a QMEA ambassador, I was also a Women in Mining and Resources Queensland (WIMARQ) mentee and took part in a ‘girls in welding program’.  To be one of the 40 accepted by Hastings Deering this year is just unbelievable. It shows that hard work really pays off.

Hastings Deering was swamped with 2695 applications, 1000 in the first week alone, with only 40 chosen, so competition was strong. Not only was this a record application intake year, but in a first in the company’s 74-year history as a Cat dealer: Rockhampton twins Eddie and Jack Hemings are the first twins to be inducted in the same apprenticeship at the same time.

Miss Palmer is also one of seven females in the group who made up 17% of the intake with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders accounting for 10%: both sectors up on 2020 figures. Adding to that, 18 of the 40 are considered mature age with Rockhampton’s Warren Kaerger the oldest at 46. Joining her as the only other Townsville trainee is Cade Gravagna who also undertook work experience with Hastings Deering.

Hastings Deering chief operating officer Mark Scott said apprenticeships continued to be highly sought after with applications up 30% on 2020 which was also a record year, up 26% on the intake applications for 2019. Across its operations in Queensland and the Northern Territory, Hastings Deering is currently training more than 200 apprentices.

Mr Scott said the majority of applications were for diesel fitter and auto electrician apprenticeships. 

“The diesel fitter apprenticeship is clearly the applicant’s preferred trade across all our locations,” he said. “Our focus was again to target a diverse range of people for our apprenticeship program which has been showing significant success.

“Mackay and Rockhampton apprentices again dominated the cohort. This is driven both by the calibre of the applicants as well as our pipeline of work in the regions, linked to the resources’ sector as well as supporting the construction industry.

“The high number of applications is also a reflection of our commitment to promoting STEM by actively partnering with the Queensland Resources Council and their Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy program which reaches 80 affiliated schools from as far north as Mount Isa and Townsville, to Central Queensland and the Coalfields as well as Brisbane in the South East.

“Five of our apprentices attended schools participating in the QMEA Academy.

“Hastings Deering continues to take a long-term view when it comes to investing in the training and development of its people and working with world-class Caterpillar machinery, our apprentices learn about the repair, servicing and maintenance of a massive range of equipment, engines and power systems.”

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