From a career in retail to a career in rail at Aurizon, Kath shares her story
Aurizon’s Kath Duckworth shares her career path: from operations manager in the retail sector to driving 12,000 tonne trains in Central Queensland. Read Kath’s story....
Kath Duckworth comes from a family of Train Drivers in North Queensland, with her dad, John previously driving in Cloncurry, Coppabella and Townsville and her sister, Trudy and herself now part of the driver community at Coppabella.
Just over seven years ago, Kath was working in a demanding role as an operations manager with a large retail chain. She was looking for a change of pace when her father suggested that she consider driving trains.
When a Trainee Train Driver job came up with Aurizon, she thought she’d give it a go and has never looked back.
“I started as a Trainee Driver in Coppabella, South West of Mackay, where I did driver school for 18 months. I then went out on track as a Train Driver for three years hauling coal from pit to port on the Goonyella rail system in Central Queensland.
“Feedback from my peers during that time was that I was naturally good at teaching and supporting others in their work. I love helping others to upskill and learn to be confident in what they’re doing. It felt natural for me to then shift into a role where I was tutoring drivers in different routes.”
Building on these skills and her experience, Kath then went on to become a qualified Driver Trainer – completing a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment to be a Registered Trainer & Assessor (RTA), becoming one of only a handful of accredited senior female Driver Trainers within the industry.
“My experience of being the only girl in the workplace has encouraged me to be more proactive in helping other women and men feel more comfortable and confident in the work,” Kath said.
“I think having men and women in our workplace gives for good balance in supporting each other and for making one good team collectively. Women can often see things differently and bring different skills and perspectives to the table which can help improve how we work together to achieve our goals.
Kath encouraged those from outside the rail industry to consider the vast range of opportunities in a national company like Aurizon. You don’t necessarily need to be degree qualified or know much initially about trains and the rail industry.
“The move for me from the retail sector to the rail industry was relatively straightforward. While my family had strong connections with rail, there is so much support for new recruits coming on board and to get them quickly up to speed on the business of rail,” Kath said.
“We have operations in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia and we’re aiming to move into the Northern Territory and South Australia. And we’re not only looking for train drivers – there’s so many different roles and opportunities for people coming in from other industries. For apprentices and graduates, to experienced trades staff, as well technical and IT specialists.
“There is lot of work happening for example with new technology to support our rail operations, ensuring drivers get the best information and data so they can optimise how they drive the train. All this supports our crews in providing provide safe, reliable and efficient for our customers.”
Aurizon’s workforce is becoming more gender balanced with 23 % female representation across the Company, and Kath is actively supporting change to enable more women join the train driver community and take on mentoring and training roles.
“Coming into a very male workplace was quite daunting and intimidating at first, however I found that I could bring a different perspective and approach to how we train and develop our drivers,” Kath said.
“I’m taking that experience and now providing advice within Aurizon on strategies for how we can improve our driver training so that we can attract and retain more women in these roles. Part of this is looking at how we can break down some of the barriers – including flexibility for parents working as drivers – so that the role works for both their family and the Company.”
When asked what her advice is to other women considering working in the rail industry who may be hesitant about working in a predominantly male workforce, Kath was quick to dismiss gender stereotypes.
“Don’t let gender stereotypes stop you from doing something you want to do,” Kath said. “With train driving in my family, I’ve never thought that I can’t do the job just because I’m female. I can still be a girl and do this job; you can do this job and still be you!
“When you’re driving with tonnes of coal pushing up behind you and you’re operating such big machinery, it can be quite overwhelming for anyone, but you have so much support.
“The rail industry is like one big family – it’s such a close-knit community where everybody knows everybody and we’re all supportive of each other. You’ll get the training and development you need to do well and to be confident in your job. Just get out there and give it a go.
“Every day I get to enjoy riding through our beautiful country, seeing some great sunsets and sunrises. I still pinch myself every day for having a job that I love!”