Jessica Waugh

Course Attended: Civil and Mining

Tauranga mother-of-three Jessica Waugh says the skills she has learned through Tai Poutini Polytechnic’s (TPP) Waikato Digger School are helping her build a better life for her three kids.

Jessica, 29, had been a construction labourer for eight years before a family tragedy just ahead of Christmas last year caused her to reassess her future. Her ex-husband and father of her three children, Lance Scullin, died after being struck with a fence paling while coming to the aid of a man being attacked outside his Tauranga home.

Jessica says Lance’s death caused her to think hard about how she would provide for her children, Jade, 9, Kaydie, 6, and JJ, 4. “Lance and I were good friends and it was a really awful time. I needed to take time off after it happened and I had to think about working and having the kids full-time from then on.

“I knew about the Waikato Digger School before then and my husband, Nathan, had previously suggested I enrol but it was always going to be difficult to give up full-time work to study for six months. But Nathan encouraged me to do it, he said: we’ll be able to do it, we’ll juggle things and we’ll work it out.”

She did sign-up and now says it was the best decision she could have made for her future and her family.

Jessica joined the February 2014 intake of TPP’s Certificate in Civil Plant Operation (Introductory) at the Waikato Digger School. She commuted to Hamilton from Tauranga daily for the duration of the course and her determination won her the Top Dog Award for the best all-round student on the course.

Jessica says the course is well-regarded in the industry. Its reputation for training students to be competent at various operational and technical skills means her future career prospects are looking bright.

“The course is really good – it is quite broad and the tutors actually do care. It is their reputation on the line. They do put in the effort and they are willing to work with individuals.

“It is hands-on and I’ll admit it was nerve-wracking to start with. I remember one of the first things we had to do was drive a loader over a high stockpile. I was really scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it but the tutor really encouraged me and I did it. I was fine but I needed that persistence to get me to do it.”

Jessica is in temporary work now while she settles on a full-time position. By early July, she had been short-listed for two permanent jobs and was positive about the future.