A career in the infrastructure trades had never occurred to Kemble Slotemaker until 2019 when she took on a temp role with Downer in Nelson to assist with water restrictor servicing.
Before then Kemble had been working in the horticulture sector for several years as well as being mum to her three children.
Downer Nelson Utilities Supervisor Aidan Fraser says Kemble made an immediate impact on the water asset team, so much so she became a full-time permanent employee with the company in 2020 and completed a water apprenticeship in 2022.
“This wasn’t on my radar as a possible career choice. I have always been an outdoor person and enjoy physical work and now that I’ve been in the construction industry for four years, I love it, and I can’t see myself doing anything else,” Kemble says. Having completed her apprenticeship, she is continuing to train in the water treatment field through Connexis and is considering further training toward an engineering qualification.
At Downer Kemble shares a water treatment trainee role with another female trainee and splits her time between that and the asset team responsible for proactive maintenance tasks across the water network. This includes flushing, rural tank cleaning, service locates, reservoir inspections, line meter reads and fault finding.
She is now also working with the reactive team at Downer Nelson to broaden her skills further by helping with new water connections, leak repairs, both urban and rural water main repairs, and “no water” investigations. She has also taken the lead in Downer Nelson’s digital transformation from manual meter reading to getting a remote radio drive-by system up and running to automate meter reading.
“Kemble has made outstanding progress personally, professionally, and in our team,” Aidan says.
Kemble has clearly shown that women can thrive in what has been a male-dominated area of work, he says, and having her in the team has been great for its culture.
Aidan adds that Kemble’s success has paved the way for other women to join the company’s water maintenance team.
Mentoring and encouraging other women into the industry is something Kemble is keen to be involved with. “It’s the variety of work that’s available that keeps me engaged and I love the ability to continue learning,” she says. “I can’t speak highly enough of my male colleagues who have been incredibly supportive.”