Burning bright: Cantabrian woman named Fire Learner of the Year

October 17, 2023

“I didn’t just want a job, I wanted a career,” says Jodie Spence-Ord. It’s exactly what the Cantabrian mum of two has achieved, and in the process, has paved the way for other women to enter the fire industry.

A busy family life and a full-time job didn’t stop Jodie from quickly completing several qualifications, including a New Zealand Certificate (NZC) in Hand Operated Fire Fighting Equipment (Level 3), a NZC in Systems Technology Testing (Level 3) and a NZC in Routine Compliance Inspections (Level 4).

It’s a huge achievement and was recognised earlier this month when she was named Fire Learner of the Year at the Fire Protection Association New Zealand (FPANZ) conference in Auckland. It’s an honour Jodie was thrilled to receive.

“If you set your mind to something and believe in yourself and your abilities, you can achieve anything,” she says. “Getting the award recognised the hard work and the long hours. It was also a feather in my employer’s cap as FFP is quite a small fire protection company compared to other businesses that put their learners forward.

“I also think winning the award shows that women are a force to be recognised and a real asset to the fire industry. When I started at FFP nearly five years ago, I was the first female fire technician, but now we have six. I’d like to think I’ve opened the doors to more women working in this field.”

FFP Service Manager Andrew Bryant says Jodie has “excelled since day one”. It’s a sentiment shared by Competenz Te Pūkenga Training Advisor John Terry.

“Jodie is committed and beyond dedicated to her study work and workplace practices. She has achieved remarkable milestones in her training journey and now runs an internal study group for other learners within FFP. She also recently stepped up to become an in-house verifier for Competenz Te Pūkenga. She sees a great future ahead with FFP that includes more learning.”

Jodie decided on the fire protection industry as a career while she was working as a security guard. “I knew someone who worked for a fire company, and I got really interested in it. Then someone from FFP was doing the building warrant at my former workplace. I had no experience in fire protection but simply approached FFP – the first female to do so! The rest is history.”

While at FFP, Jodie was given the opportunity to upskill and study towards formal qualifications while at work. The ‘earn and learn’ model was ideal for her family situation. With two young children, Jodie felt the only way she could get a qualification would be to do an apprenticeship.

“I would definitely recommend this to anyone considering a trade. Studying in the classroom isn’t for everyone, so on-the-job training is perfect. Having qualified staff is better for the company too – they send me to jobs instead of three people,” she laughs.

Proving to her family that success comes if you set goals and work hard was important for Jodie. Balancing a family with study commitments and a 40-hour-a-week job was challenging, but she was determined to succeed. She’d print assignments at work and do one or two questions each evening. “While it was full on and there wasn’t much time for rest, I found a way to do it all. You do it for your family.”

Shortly Jodie will finish her remaining units in Systems Technologies Inspections (Level 4) and is looking at what’s next for her in terms of study with Training Advisor John’s help.

“I’m proud of myself and what I’ve accomplished in the short time I’ve been in this industry, and I’m interested in what the future holds for me. I’m very grateful for the opportunities FFP has given me. I’m also secretly proud of myself – I’ve proven to everyone that I can do it and that I’m good at it in a predominantly male environment. Plus, the guys have been really lovely – supportive and encouraging.

“Five other women have been inspired and hired by FFP. We’re slowly taking over!”

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