Star apprentice builds career at Parkville Station

When it comes to inspiring other women to work in construction, Chhunly Taing has started close to home, with her younger sister.

“She wasn’t sure what to do with her career, but she looked at me and said, ‘I want to do what you’re doing!’” Taing said, who is a leading hand at the Metro Tunnel’s Parkville Station site.

“I’m not going to lie; she’s still my baby sister so I check in to make sure she’s safe when she’s on site, but I’m so happy with her decision to get into construction. There are opportunities in rail in Victoria for the next 20, 30 or 40 years, meaning stable work for both of us.”

Taing found her way onto site at Parkville after working as a traffic controller with the Level Crossing Removal Project (LXRP), sparking a curiosity about what was going on behind the construction fencing.

“I started on site as a cleaner with LXRP before moving to the Metro Tunnel Project in the same role,” she said. “Before long, one of my superintendents pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re wasted in this job, let’s get you working with the boys’.”

She is on site early each day making sure the foremen have the required staff. It’s a busy role that involves a lot of gap-filling and making sure things are running smoothly.

“I’m a loud, bubbly girl, so I think my personality made it a seamless transition to working with the crews,” she said. “I have so much fun, and the guys respect me. So many have helped me out along the way.”

Currently a Certificate IV in Civil Supervision student, Taing has been nominated for the Holmesglen Institute’s Apprentice of the Year.

“I’m not one to pump up my own tyres,” she said. “But I’ve achieved so much. I genuinely love my job.”

“It’s not easy to tell grown men what to do when some are old enough to be my father or grandfather. A highlight is these men telling me they love that I’m breaking barriers for their daughters and granddaughters.”

Another barrier Taing wants to break through is the one around mental health, especially for men on construction sites.

“I’m a mental health first-aider,” she said. “I try to talk to the men about their mental health.

“I’m in a gay marriage and my wife said to me this year she’s getting used to doing things on her own, and that killed me.”

“These men also have wives and kids. A lot of women lose their partners to the industry because of the hours involved.”

“A focus on mental health is vital, especially in construction. If you’re mentally stable, you’re a lot safer for yourself and the people around you on site.” •

For more information: metrotunnel.vic.gov.au

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