20 May 2017
After growing up in Howard, a small country town nestled in the Hervey Bay hinterland, TAFE Queensland graduate Bec Floss now works as a diesel fitter for Australia’s largest coal producer and exporter BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) at Peak Downs Mine in Central Queensland.
Bec spends her shifts climbing precariously like a mountaineer over massive graders, dozers and scrappers to ensure some of the world’s largest mining machines are kept running around the clock.
“I remember walking on-site for the first time and being absolutely gobsmacked. The mining machines are massive and the workshops are even bigger.”
“The mine itself is just monstrous; it’s a gigantic hole in the ground. I knew things were going to be big, but the sheer size of everything really blew me away. Mum always encouraged me to dream big and here I am!”
“I love my job. There’s nothing like the challenge of fixing things,” Bec explained. “I’ve always been mechanically minded. My mum was always so hands-on around the house. From servicing the car to fixing the mower, she was so resourceful. If something had to be done, she’d do it. I think I’m a lot like her,” she said.
The BMA mine at Peak Downs operates 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year. Consequently, Bec and her crew must keep the machines running constantly. Time is money and down-time is very costly.
“Being a diesel fitter is dirty, hard work and I love it. It’s all about technique, not physique. From busted pumps and control valves to leaking hydraulic hoses, every day is totally different,” Bec said.
“I work 12 hour shifts, alternating days and nights on six/six rounds (six days on, six days off). We spend our shifts either out in the ‘paddock’ fixing breakdowns and repairing machines at the coal face, or in the workshop inspecting, servicing, repairing and maintaining a range of heavy vehicles,” she continued.
While school is a way of life for all of us growing up, it’s not for everyone. Bec understood the importance of having an education but instead of being stuck inside learning about maths and science, she much preferred to be outside in the sunshine working with her hands to fix things.
“I did school differently. I completed a Certificate II in Automotive Mechanical at TAFE Queensland in Hervey Bay during Year 11 and went on to secure an apprenticeship with a local mechanic where I attained a Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical,” Bec said. “I liked getting paid while I studied, but more importantly I liked how my teacher customised my training to what I was interested in. Looking back it’s really set me up for my work in the mine,” she said.
Working in the mining industry can be challenging and quite often requires tremendous stamina and passion to be successful. But Bec has a great team behind her, supporting her to achieve her goals.
“I’m lucky to be working alongside some really experienced mechanics,” Bec said. “My crew is amazing.They’re the best bunch of work-mates anyone could possibly ask for. They’re so supportive and generous with their time—I’ve learnt so much from them.”
“There’s so many opportunities in the mining industry. I’m so glad I made the decision to try something different and interesting. Doing TAFE at school helped me find my dream job and I couldn’t be happier,” she said.
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