Of the hundreds of vehicles building the new section of the A14, only half a dozen are driven by women. The youngest of them is Lynch Operator, Chloe Rackley. She has her grandfather to thank for a decision that changed her life. Read Chloe's story as featured in Velvet magazine.
Chloe Rackley is far too modest to describe herself as a pioneer. But she's more than happy to be a role model. "More girls should think about doing the kind of job I'm doing," she says. "And I only got here almost by chance."
Aged just 20, Chloe is one of just a handful of women among hundreds of men driving the huge vehicles involved in making the new A14. She works for L Lynch, one of the contractors contributing to a project designed to ease the traffic heading across the county.
Less than a year ago Chloe was a hairdresser. "I wasn't enjoying my job. One day I got back from work and was chatting to my granddad. We were just having a cup of tea together. I told him I felt my life wasn't going anywhere," she says.
Chloe's granddad, Jim Greene, has worked in construction for more than 20 years, ever since leaving the army. He was half joking when he said to his granddaughter: "Why don't you come and work with me then?"
"I think I replied that I might give it a go," says Chloe. "He found out who I needed to speak to and I went for an interview. I was amazed when they offered me a job. I thought that being a girl might rule me out."
Because she already had a driving license, Chloe was able to go straight on to one of Lynch's intensive Careers in Plant courses to learn the basics of driving a truck.
Less than three weeks after handing in her notice at the salon, she started work, driving a 30-ton ADT on a new section of the A14. ADT stands for articulated dumper truck. They're the huge trucks used to move materials around – such as soil, sand and concrete.
Sitting beside her that first day was Chris Kent, L Lynch's A14 Operation Foreman. "I gave her quite a difficult task to do that day, delivering the concrete base material for the concrete paving machine, and she did it perfectly," he says.
"We make absolutely no distinction between the men and women working for us. The only change we had to make was to ensure women's toilets were provided at the various assembly points along the length of the project."
Chloe says: "I literally couldn't believe that I'd changed career so fast. Looking back, I wish I'd joined the construction industry earlier. But you just don't get told about the industry at school and especially if you're a girl," says Chloe.
I literally couldn't believe that I'd changed career so fast. Looking back, I wish I'd joined the construction industry earlier.
"If you told my teachers what I'm doing now they wouldn't believe it. I was always the girl who loved shopping and doing her makeup. I was destined to be a hairdresser or maybe, because I got quite good GCSEs, a teacher."
Being outnumbered by men in the workplace has never bothered her. "The men I work with are great, really understanding and supportive. We have our breaks together and they're just really nice and friendly," she says.
"The women I worked with at the salon thought I'd soon be back. But I felt at home in the job from the start. I've had one or two scary moments going up and down steep slopes but it's a lot less stressful than being in a salon."
She loves sitting up high in a cab and especially enjoys driving a vehicle with a swivel skip, allowing the driver to tip the load out sideways. "I'm never bored, and I want to go as far as I can, gaining new skills," she says.
"I'm working towards getting a ticket called Tracked 360 that will enable me to drive an excavator. My end goal is to teach people coming into the industry and encourage more girls to think about a career in construction."
Chloe's granddad is quite rightly extremely proud of Chloe as are the rest of her family.Her dad is supervisor of another road improvement project so they can have good chats about work.
She says: "I've got younger sisters and to them there's nothing remarkable about me doing what most people might think is a man's job.It's just normal and that's exactly how things should be."
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