Camaria Spalding: A woman not afraid to cross lines

AN electric utility lineman installs, maintains, and repairs electric distribution and transmission systems. This includes conduits, cables, wires and related equipment such as transformers, circuit breakers, and switches. They also dig holes and set poles, using cranes and power equipment.

Working on the line requires, too, hauling gear, pulling thick cable and wire and even having to work long hours at night. Every day is different, from challenging job sites to working in extreme weather. Moreover, working with high-voltage lines leaves you with absolutely no room for error. When they climb down, hit the ground and remove their protective headgear, we all expect to see a lineman, right? Well, brace yourself. Let us introduce you to Camaria Spalding — a line woman.

It takes both mental and physical strength to work in the energy sector. There are no specific gender requirements for line worker positions; however, it is no secret that men predominantly and traditionally hold these positions.

According to Spalding, who has been a 'lineman' for nine years, at the end of the day crews do not care about gender; they care about getting a job done efficiently and safely. Every day on the job for her is different, as today she could be working on high-voltage power lines, climbing a 65-foot pole, fixing transformers, or on a ladder repairing a home's rooftop connections.

It is a challenging job for anyone, she said, but she considers it a privilege even though she has to push herself even harder to ensure that she gets the job done.

"As a JPS employee, I work on power lines to maintain the electric grid and to see to it that all our customers have a stable electric service," Spalding said.

Spalding is among a group of trainees participating in the level 2 - electric hybrid vehicle routine maintenance training programme. In keeping with the project's technical capacity building and training objectives, Project eDrive working with NCTVET and HEART/NSTA Trust has identified and adapted existing certificate programmes for safety standards and technical skills required for mechanics and first responders, including firefighters and roadside assistance personnel

Women have been specially targeted for inclusion in the EV training programme to increase their employability in a traditionally male-dominated field.

"Our objective is to open doors for women, many of whom are the decision-makers and heads of households. The eDrive Project also aims at equipping them to become entrepreneurs and leaders in the evolving electric mobility sector," Coleen Palmer Wright, Project eDrive's lead, explained.

"I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to be one of the first women to learn about electric vehicles in Jamaica. I have always had a curiosity for all things electrical, so if it's electric, I want to know what it is and how it works," Spalding explained.

"I look forward to learning everything about electric and hybrid vehicles, so I can be ready to assist if I encounter one of these vehicles damaged in an accident, or broken down on the road. The programme will even help me develop life skills," she added.

Spalding said it can be intimidating to be a woman in her line of work. However, once she is given the proper tools, training and opportunity, she can do any job a man can do.

"It is great exposure, and I hope to see more women participate in the electric vehicle training programme. As I always say, I don't consider any field as a man's job. I think as women we should step up, and once we get the proper guidance, we can do the job also," she said.

"The automotive world is male-oriented too, so if I can do double-duty, already mastering working on JPS lines and now being trained to have mastery of EVs, then I can soon proudly state that I had a hand in helping to not only slow climate change but also lead and grow EV adoption in Jamaica. I know our environment will thank me too!"

The electrification of transportation is expected to create new business opportunities and new jobs. Training and capacity building are key areas of focus for Project eDrive, which is helping to create a sustainable ecosystem to support the growth in electric mobility locally. The US$2 million project is jointly funded by the IDB Lab and JPS.

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