This months forestry family is one that is quite under represented in our sector.
Paige Handspiker is a 27 year old power house. Born and raised in Bear River, NS this young women has started working with one of this province’s finest road builders, Dean Orde.
As we pull one of our four legged staffers off of the end of her braid I ask why she decided to get into operating?
“My Dad was an operator of a CAT dozer” she replies. “I went out West to follow in his footsteps.”
As someone who has made the transition from West Coast to East Coast forestry I ask how the culture was around female operators in Alberta.
“There were tons of female operators in Rocky Mountain House” she says, as my jaw audibly hit the road she had just freshly graded. She is the first female operator I have met before so hearing this made me giddy!
“It all depended on the crew” she adds. “But for the most part the women were treated the same as the men. Sometimes they would make up half of the crew.”
As she is working on road building with a grader now, I ask if she has always operated a grader?
“No actually” she says with a little laugh. “I have been on the grader for about three weeks now. I used to drive rock truck in Rocky Mountain House. I spent three years building leases.”
Do you prefer the grader?
“Yeah, I love it. It’s the dream really” she responds.
Knowing she moved back to the East Coast I ask if she always had the job lined up?
“No actually. I moved back in 2019 and worked at the Superstore and as a bar manager at the Legion in Bear River.”
Did you find it hard to find an operating job when you moved back.
“It can be hard for people to take a chance on any young operators in Nova Scotia, I would say especially on a woman but Dean did” she says smiling. “I am so grateful for him for taking a chance on me and giving me this opportunity as well as mentoring me.”
Forestry is one of the first jobs that starts in the morning so I ask her how she finds the hours?
“Well, its early but I don’t mind” she replies. “However, I am still working two jobs. I am still a bar manager at the Legion so I didn’t get home till eleven last night and I left at ten to five this morning.”
As if you weren’t impressed already by the talent and drive this woman has, she is also a single mom.
Paige has a four year old daughter Madelyn, also know as Maddy, as well as a five year old pupper named Rex. Maddy is lucky to have a mother like Paige who breaks the gender mold.
Paige is an inspiration. Young women or girls who have ever been told “that’s for boys” need more opportunities to meet people like Paige. If you have a daughter, grand-daughter, sister, niece, or friend remind them of the stories like Paige’s.