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20th April 2021


women in construction crane operator

As the UK’s leading supplier of lifting solutions, it’s important for us here at Ainscough Crane Hire to find the right people for the job. Crane Operator, Caroline Brett has been with us for two decades and is one of our most experienced drivers. This is her Ainscough story.

I first began driving cranes as a teenager – my Dad owned a boat-yard company and taught me how to operate the crane there for extra pocket money. I spent many weekends helping to lift sailing boats, masts and engines, and it was an amazing introduction into the industry.

Once I’d left school at 18, crane-driving was the logical career choice as something I both enjoyed and excelled at. I went to Canterbury College and studied motor vehicles, working part-time in garages to learn and earn my way through. In those days you weren’t able to get a crane operating license until the age of 21, so instead, I worked in pubs and at the local dockyard while phoning various crane companies in the summer of 2000 to ask if I could gain some work experience. Even at that time, it was difficult finding a job in the construction industry as a woman, and I received a lot of rejections. But thankfully, Ainscough Crane Hire said yes.

That autumn, I spent a week learning the ropes at Ainscough at the age of 20. I witnessed the jobs being done and knew right away that this was the company for me. I’m still massively grateful for being given that opportunity and have a lot of respect to Ainscough for going against the grain. Twenty years is not that long ago, but they showed themselves to be a progressive company and have never wavered in doing all they can to support equality.

Since starting at Ainscough, I’ve now worked at the Maidstone depot alongside a familiar and expert crew for two decades. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, each morning would begin with a catch-up in the break room to discuss our jobs for the day before setting up the cranes. It’s been a difficult year for everyone but that’s what I’m looking forward to the most when we can all return – enjoying that gentle social aspect of the depot workplace.

Throughout lockdown, the work largely hasn’t changed. Our projects are generally connected to the public sector and there’s been a lot of important construction going on since last March. From housing projects to the National Grid; it’s that constant change of scenery that makes my job so exciting.

But wherever you are, and whatever project you might be working on, there’s always a dedicated Ainscough team behind you. In 2019 I was working at the Chatham Docks on the Thames clean-up project. Together with some colleagues from Heavy Cranes, we lifted three pre-fabricated steel sections onto a ship to be taken up the Thames River. These were then used in the creation of the Thames Tideway sewer, London’s famous project to help clean and filter the river Thames. Working with a larger crew on such a worthy project was fantastic – and makes it all that more special when you can celebrate as a team.

Part of the reason there’s less women in the crane industry is because whilst I grew up in a trade environment, it’s difficult for a lot of young girls to find information about what the industry offers. For anyone who’s thinking about a role in crane operation, I would advise them to speak to the experts and gain as much knowledge as possible. These days, there’s so much more support for young people thanks to apprenticeships or work experience schemes and that really makes a difference.

I’m hugely appreciative of the support that’s been given to me over the years from Ainscough Crane Hire – its training and education programmes are second-to-none and that’s one of the main reasons I’ve never left.

Ever wondered about becoming a crane operator? Take a look at our blog ‘An essential guide for training to be a crane operator’
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