Ashley Beeby’s pursuit of diesel mechanics was about as straightforward as dissecting a truck engine. But the journey has Ashley cruising along in her dream profession.
Like many of us in high school, Ashley hadn’t given too much thought to her career. She signed herself up for work experience with a mechanic, for quite the intriguing reason.
“I signed up for it for work experience with my only real knowledge of the industry being based off Megan Fox in Transformers,” Ashley said.
“She looked cool, and maybe I could look cool and earn some popularity points in school.”
But there was no motorbike polishing to be had after Ashley realised she’d be doing work experience with a diesel mechanic.
“I signed up on a whim, and when I found out I’d be working on trucks, I had no intention of attending,” she said. After some convincing from her parents, Ashley decided to begrudgingly give it a go. It was a good thing too, because Ashley ended up falling in love with the industry from then on.
“In hindsight, the biggest reason for me getting hooked was because I was curious,” she said. “There’s so much to learn, my first engagement with the industry was with an engine company and they were all about assembling these massive, detailed engines. “There was so much precision required and a level of understanding and knowledge.
“There was all this information I had no idea existed – it sparked my curiosity which drove me more than anything.”
High school continued, but Ashley’s fascination with mechanics remained. Then she entered that most pivotal of stages: year 12. With a coveted ATAR of 95, you would think Ashley was destined for a career in medicine or law.
Without even knowing it, however, Ashley had subconsciously made her mind up on the career she wanted to pursue long before graduation.
It was a mechanic’s life for her.
“I had decided unconsciously before I decided consciously,” Ashley said. “I was really fortunate in that sense because I had spent so much time in the industry and I got to compare that to doing exam revisions for a full day in university auditoriums. It was very clear to me which way I was gonna go.”
Ashley, now 24, has been a certified diesel mechanic for two years. She works for Australian civil infrastructure company BildGroup, operating both at its workshop in Campbellfield and across the greater Melbourne area. Diesel vehicles and machinery are part and parcel to BildGroup’s business, and it’s Ashley’s business with the workshop team to keep them running as smooth as possible.
“I’m not only working on trucks, I’m also working on construction equipment whether that’s diggers, bulldozers or generators,” she said. “Sometimes, I’ll even be working on road maintenance equipment like road profilers and asphalt pavers.”
The inner workings of heavy machinery remain a constant source of curiosity for Ashley; everyday there’s something new to learn. While it’s not as ‘life-or-death’ or gory as being a doctor or surgeon, diagnosing and repairing issues with heavy machinery is all about meticulousness.
“There definitely are similarities in that you have to test your own understanding and the situation before you can make a decision,” Ashley added.
“When you’re going to pull something apart, you don’t want to pull something apart then find you were wrong or overlooked something.
“There’s an attention to detail and knowing how even the smallest piece works.”
This methodical approach has kept Ashley invested in the industry long past her work experience as a teen.
“You really get into the flow of what you’re doing because there’s steps when you’re diagnosing something,” she said.
“If it’s an internal hydraulic leak, you can’t see it on the outside but maybe machine functions don’t have the power or speed they should.
“It’s those moments in the job where I’m really in the mix of using my brain and being challenged while growing my understanding of the field.”
Ashley not only proves more than capable in the workshop – she also helps to grow the industry as a whole. Ashley regularly participates in the Victorian Department of Education’s VET Champions initiative, which promotes high-achieving professionals from vocational training backgrounds.
As trades become more diverse – particularly in terms of the percentage of women – Ashley said she’s noticed the process taking longer than many might have expected. However, she said as long as women realise the opportunities in these industries at a young age, interest can only grow.
“Even if the options are there in year 12, I feel like it’s already too late. The lowest I’ve engaged with has been year 9 with VET Champions,” she said.
“I feel like the space is shifting, but we keep having to have those conversations, it might take three years and feel like we’re still not gaining traction.
“Then it will be like ‘wow! Where did they all come from?’. We’re not really seeing the flowers grow from the seeds we’ve sewn quite yet.”
There’s no denying, for Ashley at least, diesel mechanics is an industry she’s absolute loving so far with little regret. “Being a diesel mechanic has taken me to places I didn’t even know were options with this
pathway,” she said.
“A small leap of faith in the beginning has given me so many opportunities to actually contribute to the community and advocate for women in trades and for people to take these pathways.
“Don’t worry about what your ATAR was because you can have those smarts in any environment … it will all be an asset to you in the real world.”