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A Woman in Transport

It’s a rare sight in Papua New Guinea, to see a young woman dressed in safety overalls and boots leading a team of men to install or fix a truck’s electronic system.

For Rachel Naguwean, it was not a dream or an overnight decision to become an auto electrician. It took some soul searching, consulting and wise words from her father before she made the big decision that this was what she wanted.

Like few Papua New Guinean women, Rachel has defied the stereotype about women working in a men’s field and has come on top to be the Leading Hand in Auto Electrical with iPi Transport.

The once shy and timid girl from Eastern Highlands and East Sepik first joined iPi Transport in 2011 as a trainee auto electrician after graduating from Goroka Technical College.

Rachel recalled her first day being welcomed into a cohort of all males covered in greasy oil stained overalls while being surrounded by huge trucks and buses parked and lined so neatly as if they were measured by a ruler.

“The whole depot looked nothing like I had imagined from the outside,” she said recalling the doubts racing through her mind then.

She remembered how shy she was being the only female in the group.

“When I first started in this field, I was shy working with all the guys because I might do something wrong,” said Rachel, who now confidently assists her male colleagues unscrew the bumper of a Kenworth prime mover.

Having longed working in an environment such as this, this was the perfect opportunity for her to utilise the skills she acquired from school.

“I’ve always wanted to work with The iPi Group long before I even started. In fact, the corporate colours were what got my attention,” she said of the different hues of blue and white that are now synonymous with The iPi Group.

Rachel’s response got her reminiscing to the days when her father first asked her to take up auto mech in college. According to her, her father quietly called her one afternoon, sat her down and asked her to consider.

“Back then, dad was working in the mining industry and he wanted one of his children to work in this field and… yeah…he asked me and now I’m here,” she adds with a chuckle.

Her father’s words still echo through her ears after all these years as she thanks him for guiding her along her career path.

“I thank my family for their support and for allowing me to do what I love doing,” she said.

In 2012, The iPi Group sent her and a few of her male colleagues to do a two month course at Port Moresby Technical College. This was the beginning of a new turn in her career.

From being a trainee auto electrician, Rachel worked her way up the ranks and was awarded her Tradesman Certificate in 2017. During that same year, she was promoted as the Leading Hand in Auto Electrical.

With a huge task on hand, Rachel with the support of iPi Transport and her colleagues, managed her way around her new role.

Despite the hard task given to her, she continues to prove her worth and has shown that women can handle anything given to them. She has grown from this once shy trainee to a team leader.

“At first the guys were really helpful probably because I was a female but these days a lot has changed, I now take the lead and am thankful for their support” she said.

Though she faces few challenges in her line of work, these hurdles have pushed and motivated her to continue to do better.

Rachel has found her way around the system and has blended in with work life. She enjoys working with her colleagues and is grateful to iPi Transport for believing and supporting her all throughout her journey as an auto electrician.

“iPi Transport is the best company I’ve worked with. The staff here are friendly and easy to get along with including the bosses. I’m just thankful for being a part of the team,” she said with a smitten look on her face.

Currently, there are four female tradies working at the iPi Transport Depot in Lae. The firm has a transport fleet of over 80 trucks, made up predominantly of Prime Movers and Twin-steers. The iPi Transport fully supports and encourages females to join the company.

Rachel sounded an encouraging message to aspiring female auto electricians to take up the challenge to work amongst the male folks and give it their best despite it being a male dominated field.

In a further effort to support future women in Transport, Rachel is working with the iPi Group’s Business Development Unit to coordinate a career day activity with some of the local High Schools in Lae to visit the iPi Transport Depot, to see and hear firsthand from both the apprentices and staff like Rachel, to take the challenge to work in transport and be a part of the team.

Business Development Director Trent Scott said: ‘Our plan moving forward is to conduct the outreach and awareness in Term 4 (early October) by approaching Lae Polytechnic College, St Joseph's and Malahang Tech College.

He revealed that Rachel is one of six women of the total 28 employed by iPi Transport who currently work in traditionally male-dominated roles. Four work in the workshop, three as auto-electricians and a motor mechanic while the other two work in Admin and Operations, one as a GPS Officer and the other as the Operations Admin supervisor.

He said The iPi Group will continue to encourage more women to consider these jobs as careers, hence the initiative being driven by Rachael and The iPi Group Business Development unit.

“Although numbers may seem small on the surface, the positive impact on Rachael, on families and the individuals themselves is significant and we definitely see that the initiative is a step in the right direction,” Scott summed up.

A fully integrated supply-chain management and logistics organisation the iPi Group is backed by its professional and dedicated staff and management teams, providing a deep understanding and experience across seven diversified divisions.

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