All aboard with Chelsea Jones

A former Miller Technology High School student is forging a career pathway in a most unlikely field.

17 November 2021
Image: Chelsea, ex Miller Technology HS student sets sail on her traineeship

Growing up, Chelsea Jones never imagined that one day she’d be working on Sydney’s famous Manly ferry. Why would she have? A couple of years ago, Chelsea couldn’t have told you the difference between port and starboard. Yet today, the Miller alum from south-west Sydney is settling into a full-time job with Sydney Harbour Ferries having completed a year-long traineeship with the employer in January.

Chelsea’s foray into ferry life may never have happened had it not been for an opportunity brokered by her school. Miller Technology High has a longstanding relationship with The Smith Family and, in 2019, Chelsea was invited to attend a Work Inspiration program organised by the charity. The three-day event was run by Sydney Harbour Ferries and it gave Chelsea an idea of what a career working the ‘boats’ would be like.

“They explained what they do and told us what career pathways were possible with them,” says Chelsea.

“One day we went out on the Manly boat, and then we had to do different exercises and tasks. I had to do a little presentation about one of the workers we’d met, explaining what they did and everything.”

Chelsea was sold. She loved the hands-on nature of the work as well as the idea of being about to interact with members of the public as a deckhand. Luckily for Chelsea, the employer was interested, too.

Image: More women encouraged to consider careers with Sydney Harbour Ferries

“One of the skippers came up to me at the end of the program and said, ‘We reckon you’d be good for it,’” says Chelsea, explaining that there was a traineeship on offer.

After completing a bunch of paperwork and getting the all clear from the doctors, Chelsea started a traineeship with Sydney Harbour Ferries in January 2020. According to Chelsea, the transition from Miller to the Balmain shipyard was pretty seamless, but the two environments are worlds apart. For one thing, Chelsea’s new line of work has traditionally been a male-dominated field.

“They’re trying to encourage more women to consider careers with Sydney Harbour Ferries,” says Chelsea.

“There are a few of us, but it’s a great work environment either way. Everyone’s really helpful. If I don’t know what I’m doing, the engineer will show me.”

It’s also a job with plenty of perks. While Chelsea’s job calls for some pretty early starts, her employer sends a car to pick her up so she can be at Balmain just after 4am to fire up the boat. And then there’s those world-famous views.

“You can’t beat the views,” says Chelsea, noting that Sydney Harbour is a pretty good office.

“I got a photo of a rainbow over the Opera House the other day as we went past. I’ve seen dolphins come up right by the boat, the seal that pops up on the marker near Clark Island, penguins, crazy fog… I just love going to work every day. I never want to leave.”

If we were in Chelsea’s shoes, we wouldn’t want to either. And to think that a couple of years ago Chelsea had no real idea that she could make a living working on Sydney’s ferries. It goes to show why it’s so important to introduce students to as many career pathways as possible.

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