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May 03, 2022 Rail

Women in Rail

This week Samuel Knight Group Marketing Lead Emma Dark, sat down with Samuel Knight Rail candidate Chantelle Franklin Jones to find out what life is like for women working on track within the Rail Industry.

Great to meet you Chantelle, please tell us a little about yourself, and your job. I’m keen to find out how your career path led you to the tracks!

I used to work selling aggregate and concrete, working on the weigh bridge and visiting quarries to negotiate prices but I’ve always preferred being outside so I knew that I wanted to make the move into the Rail Industry and the timing finally felt right for me.

I’m currently employed as a Trackworker working across the South West. My role covers maintenance and repair work on railway tracks but I’ve also done some civils work recently in Cardiff too.  I’ve actually only been working within the Rail industry for about a month or so, I’m still finding my feet and getting to grips with the sector but it’s safe to say I’m enjoying every moment!  

What attracted you to Samuel Knight?

I knew that I wanted to do something within construction so I studied for my NVQ Level 2 which then meant that I could go straight into employment rather than doing an apprenticeship.

I was doing my PTS training (which is required to work on live tracks) and the assessor kindly pointed me in the direction of Samuel Knight to explore their roles as he thought I’d be a good fit. I really enjoy the flexibility that Samuel Knight offer as I don’t work full time because I have to juggle my children throughout the day, so prefer to work the nightshifts.

What does an average shift look like for you?

Depending on the project that I’m working on, each shift can be very different, though the shift can’t start until we have access to the track which is between 10 pm and 8 am. Once on site we then have the health and safety run through and wait until the machinery is on the line so we can begin to dig the beds and put the sleepers in – it’s very manual work!

Typically on for each job there’s around 10 in a gang on track, depending on what we are doing of course, though I’ve worked with just 1 or 2 others on sites before.

What does the rail industry look like at the moment for women, do women still face challenges within the sector?

I’ve only worked within Rail for a month however yes it’s clearly a very male dominated environment but it can also be such a light hearted and calm environment! I always know that I’m going to have a great time on the track with the guys as they really make me feel so welcome and part of the team!

Coming into the industry as a woman for me, was really straight forward – there was no barriers due to my sex. You definitely do need to have a strong mind set and know what you are getting into as it’s a very manual and demanding job so you need to be sure that’s the career path for you! Your heart needs to be in it, so if you want it then go for it!

Are there any misconceptions people have about your role?

I hope that I can help break down stigmas of women carrying out manual work as society still views a women’s career path as something office based, while it’s the men that are expected to go down the manual route. I believe women should push themselves outside of their comfort zone and what society expects of them. There’s no segregation in the workplace and everyone is treated equal in my experience so I’d absolutely love to see more women on track!

I have found that it’s hard for men to change their mind set that women don’t need looking after and can complete the same work as them as a few times people have offered to do things for me and I know they mean well but I am capable. I guess men are used to just doing these jobs and to them it’s unusual that a woman would be working alongside them, using the same equipment as its second nature to them to just be surrounded by men on track.

Finally, what advice do you have for women considering a career in the rail industry?

My advice would be if you can dream it, you can do it, nothing is stopping you!

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