Celebrating the women at James Vac Solutions

The vacuum excavation company has a remarkable and valuable team of women helping make James Vac Solutions what it is today. They sat down with The Australian Pipeliner to chat about their daily life in the industry.

James Vac Solutions, founded in 2021, is all about putting women first – the company’s owner and Director is a woman herself.

Dannielle James is her name. With her now husband Jason James, they decided to start their very own directional drilling company 10 years ago.

“In 2013 we started Pipe Pro Drilling which is now a leading rock drilling company in Victoria,” she said.

Jason was at that time a directional driller on the same roster as Dannielle (working together in FIFO roles in the Pilbara, WA), their passion for the pipeline industry cemented their will to embark on this adventure together.

“During this time, we invested in a vacuum excavation truck to work alongside our drilling crews to safely identify and locate underground services and dig in more sensitive areas where traditional excavation methods could not,” Dannielle said.

“As more and more people began to see the benefits of our vacuum excavation truck, they started to enquire about hiring.

“As we were using it every day, Jason and I saw a gap in the market where we could hire out our services.”

James Vac
Dannielle James accepting the Federation University Commerce Ballarat Business Excellence Award in the Trade Category in 2022.

In 2020, Jason set out with the help of local mechanics to custom build a larger 10,000L vacuum truck. By the end of 2021 it was ready to start work. That was the genesis of James Vac Solutions.

“Since then, with the help of our Manager, Jim Mackay, we have grown our fleet to six vacuum excavation trucks and our street sweeper to meet the ever-growing demand for our services in Western Victoria,” Dannielle said.

In her 13 years working in the pipeline industry, Dannielle has seen it evolve for the better.

“In the beginning I did not know any other women and as much as I would have loved to employ more women a decade ago, I wasn’t seeing any applying for the jobs we were advertising,” she said.

“I started following organisations such as National Association of Women In Construction (NAWIC) and Tradeswomen Australia just to network and connect with other women in the industry as I felt very isolated.

“As time has gone on, I am seeing many more women in roles across all sectors which makes me really proud as a woman and for the younger girls coming through school seeing that a career in civil construction is possible.”

Pipe Pro Drilling and James Vac Solutions are both success stories, thanks to their owners and directors’ unwavering passion for the industry.

Pipe Pro Drilling won two awards in the commerce Ballarat Business Excellence Awards. One in 2017 under the innovation category, and one in 2018 when it won an award for excellence in trade. James Vac Solutions was also recognised, winning the Commerce Ballarat Award for Excellence in Trade in 2022.

“In 2019 I personally won the NAWIC Victorian Businesswoman of the Year award,” Danielle said.

“Asides from the awards, I am most proud of the businesses Jason and I have created, and the opportunities we have given people.”

The James Vac Solutions Street Sweeper at Lake Wendouree.

For her, being a woman in this industry is all about trusting yourself and other inspiring women gravitating to it. Be confident and recognise your worth,” Dannielle said.

“If you are passionate about a career in civil construction, then do work experience or seek out other women already in the industry to act as mentors.”

And Dannielle surely knows how to surround herself with smart, dedicated and skilled female co-workers, such as Stella Boots the Office Administrator at James Vac Solutions.

Boots has been working at the company since May 2022, and it is her first position in the pipeline industry.

So far, her experience has been nothing less than positive and insightful.

“It’s interesting to increase my knowledge of all the types of work that our company undertakes,” Boots said.

“I have found my male co-workers friendly and easy to deal with.

“It is satisfying to reflect on how much I have learnt in regard to vehicles, equipment and job concepts.”

For Boots, women are assets in the pipeline industry, as they bring with them invaluable skills, remarkable expertise, and new ways of looking at the industry.

She said women have so much value to add to this industry.

“My view is that the workplace is safe and inclusive,” she said. “The more women that participate in this field of work hopefully the more the role will be reflected back for other women to join.”

James Vac
Vacuum Truck operator Georgia Crow.

Georgia Crow, Vacuum Truck Operator at James Vac Solutions, said that working for the company had always been a positive experience.

“It has been very good, I really enjoy working with and getting to know all the guys and girls,” she said.

“They are already fun, easy-going and enjoyable to be around.”

Crow is proud of having passed her truck licence, because according to her, it is one of her biggest achievements as a woman in the industry.

She is also proud of realising that she is doing “pretty good” at her job and getting more and more confident in doing tasks by herself.

“Not only was I confident in doing the job by myself, but Jim Mackay, Fleet Manager at Pipe Pro Drilling, also believed in me,” she said.

Crow’s advice for women who are considering joining the industry is simple: go for it.

“I think if you enjoy working outdoors, don’t mind getting a bit muddy and enjoy giving the boys a run for their money, then there’s no harm in trying something new,” Crow said.

The article originally appeared on The Australian Pipeliner.

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