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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘My favourite machine to operate is the JCB dump truck’ – 16-year-old operator

That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, speaks to Regan Falconer, a 16-year-old plant machinery operator.

She explains how her father established GF Site Services from humble beginnings and inspired her career path. 

“I am a 16-year-old from Dores, Inverness, and I believe that I am Scotland’s youngest girl to have tickets.

From a young age, I have been around machinery. My father, Gary Galconer, established his own business, GF Site Services, from humble beginnings and has been building it up ever since.

Twenty years down the line, he is still going strong and continues to do what he loves most.

He has taught me all I need to know about operating machinery, with some shouting and disagreements along the way.

My father has inspired my career because he has always worked hard and built a business up from nothing.

Plant machinery operator 

From the first time I set foot in a machine, I knew it was my passion, and I wanted to do this as a career.

I always knew that school was not for me. Honestly, I was desperate to leave school as soon as possible since I enrolled, to be honest.

I tried dropping out many times before I was 16 and before the Christmas term was over, but they just would not allow it, even though I would go out and earn a living for myself.

So Christmas term passed, and that was me out of school for good. Moreover, I cannot explain how much joy that brings to me, just knowing I could go and do what I love instead of doing something I hate.

I turned 16 in November 2021 and completed my site operatives test in March. I passed that, and that is when I realised how much I wanted to get my machine tickets.

Then, I got my roller, ADT Rear Tipping Articulated Dump Truck, and 360 degrees tracked excavator tickets.

My favourite machine to operate is the JCB dump truck. I love working with my father as he continues to show me the ropes.

We currently work at different site locations, so when I turn 17, I will get my driver’s licence.

Furthermore, I would like to go and experience some work with bigger dumpers like a Volvo A40. It has always been a dream of mine to drive this.

GFSS LTD

We do all types of groundwork, mainly all infrastructure for new buildings, clearing sites, foundations drainage, car parks, estate works and lodge parks.

We are around the Highlands most of the time, but occasionally, we are all over Scotland.

Customers are a mix of private and commercial. Currently, we are working on many schools subcontracted to Morgan Sindall to carry out all groundwork.

We have all types of plant from minis to large excavators, dumpers, dump trucks, rollers, a telehandler and lots of small equipment and tools.

I am very lucky to have grown up around machinery and to have had someone to teach me from a young age, which I appreciate.

People have seen me with my father around machines from a young age and have realised that I am very interested in this line of work.

Furthermore, I am not second doubted, although when I meet some new people, they can sometimes give me a look as if to say are you sure you can manage.

It is difficult for people to get into machinery operating roles these days. You cannot just go jump in a machine and practice; you need to have the ticket to get onto a machine.

Construction careers 

In my view, the only way you can get into it now is if you are brought up around it, and you have plenty of opportunities to get in and have a go.

I believe there will always be the view that construction is a man-based sector. However, more women are getting into it and changing that stereotype.

I feel that no matter what gender you are, as long as you have a passion for what you want to do and you are willing to work, you can do it.

They never highlighted construction and machine operating as a career option when I was in school.

This was frustrating because they would always mention hairdressing and beauty-related jobs for girls.

Schools should be more open when it comes to highlighting possible career paths. This would enable students to see that construction could be a good opportunity as it provides a good working environment.

Breaking the glass ceiling 

In the future, I would love to see lots more girls doing this job and change the views of those people who believe that is it only a man’s job.

I would also love to see schools giving young people a chance or even just giving information about construction because I feel a lot of young people would love it.

I would advise girls to get into it at a young age when leaving school. It is difficult to get started in the plant machinery operating field with no experience.

However, it is an exciting career and has the potential to offer higher payments than a lot more other popular professions.

Construction is not the same every day one day; you could be concreting, and the next, you could be digging a pond. It does vary, and that is what I love about my job.

I am lucky enough to work with family and friends. Construction is not for everyone, but certainly, for me, it is.

I aim to work hard and achieve big dreams – one of which is to be in a business partnership with my father and brother, Cameron.”

To share your story like this plant machinery operator, email – [email protected]

Other stories:

Read our interview with Gemma Howey, ‘The Dozer Chick’

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