Menu
News

Study help for water plant workers

HAPPY EMPLOYEES: Julie Smith and Shelley Cottam have been awarded full scholarships through the Supporting Women Scholarship Program.
HAPPY EMPLOYEES: Julie Smith and Shelley Cottam have been awarded full scholarships through the Supporting Women Scholarship Program. Contributed

JULIE Smith and Shelley Cottam are making a splash.

The two women are responsible for the Moranbah Water Treatment Plant's entire operation, from water monitoring and testing to their own pump, equipment and ground maintenance program.

This month, Julie and Shelley, who both grew up in Moranbah, were awarded full scholarships through the State Government Supporting Women Scholarship Program, designed to assist women gain qualifications in high priority and skills shortage areas that are traditionally male dominated.

We are lucky to be working at a smaller plant because we can do all our own testing, monitoring and maintenance, which makes it all the more interesting.

Isaac Regional Council Mayor Anne Baker said the women were selected among 148 recipients from 500 applicants from around Queensland.

"They began their studies last week for a Diploma of Water Operations through the Wide Bay TAFE Institute, which will take 18 months to complete.

"Both highly skilled and motivated, Julie and Shelley are extremely deserving of their scholarships.

"Helping increase women's participation in male dominated sectors is key to easing skills shortage."

Shelley said they were thrilled that both were successful.

"I thought it might only be one of us," she said.

"So we are really happy we'll be able to study together and support one another."

Julie, the plant operator, has worked for IRC for 25 years, with the past 23 at the water plant, while Shelley came on board six years ago as an adult trainee.

"I'm lucky enough to have gained my Certificate II, III and IV through council and now to be able to study for my diploma with the support of a scholarship is wonderful," Shelley said.

With only the two women on site, plus a trainee who shifts between the water plant and sewage plant, a typical day for Julie and Shelley usually involves the recording of plant logs, water sampling and monitoring, checking equipment, chemical vats, fluoride levels and overnight water usage, then any machinery and ground maintenance needed.

"We do it all," Julie said.

"We operate two separate plants, which can run independently - so if work is needed on one, we can operate the other.

"In winter one is enough, but we need both during the summer to supply the town."

Starting their day at 6.30am, Julie and Shelley alternate weekend work at the plant.

"If Julie is away, I work until she's back and vice versa," Shelley said.

"We're undertaking the diploma as part of our job.

"With water and sewerage training you need to work within the industry."

Julie said while the day to day plant operation generally ran smoothly, the occasional storm and power outage could have them on alert.

"That can keep us here to manually run pumps until four in the morning - but we can usually manage," she said.

"We don't have many breakdowns or stressful moments.

"We are lucky to be working at a smaller plant because we can do all our own testing, monitoring and maintenance, which makes it all the more interesting."

Topics:  irrigation moranbah