Castle Bromwich mum becomes UK's first female rig driver - The Solihull Observer

Castle Bromwich mum becomes UK's first female rig driver

Solihull Editorial 6th Mar, 2024   0

A MUM who was inspired to change jobs from watching the construction of HS2 from her window has become the UK’s first female rig driver.

Natalie Smith, who lives in Castle Bromwich, was both intrigued and inspired by HS2’s construction, which she could see taking shape from her bedroom window.

After working as a forklift truck driver in warehouse operations, and despite having secured promotion to a management position, the Redditch native felt it was time for change.

After speaking with a friend of her father’s – a HS2 construction manager, the 44-year-old contacted SB3, the Bachy Soletanche and Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering joint venture, leading the foundation works for HS2 in the West Midlands and she began her new start.

Natalie was offered one-year’s training with accreditation to become a trainee piling operative, a skilled role that requires operatives to drive steel columns into the ground.

Natalie sailed through the training programme, excelling at all the learning modules from Slinger to Piling Operative. She passed with flying colours and became a fully qualified Rig Attendant.

When Natalie completed the course in September 2023, she received accreditation from awarding body CITA, who confirmed she was the first female in the UK to achieve Rig Driver status.

Natalie said: “Apparently, I’m the first female in the UK to qualify as a Rig Driver, which makes me feel really proud of what I’ve achieved. On site, I am the only female in the rig team, but it doesn’t bother me, or the lads, everyone is just so supportive.

“My mum can’t believe the huge machines I drive, and my son asks every night “How many holes have you dug today mum?

“It’s great to be doing something different. To play a part in building this new railway, that will stand for years to come, means I’m part of a moment in history and I love that idea.”

For the past five months Natalie has worked as part of a 14 person team on the HS2 route in Birmingham between Saltley and Curzon Street.

She is currently leading the piling operation for the Duddeston Junction viaduct.

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