Trailblazing Lucy a role model for women in engineering
By Ian Mean, director of Business West Gloucestershire
Lucy Ackland is an absolute role model for women in engineering and a trailblazer for girls considering an engineering apprenticeship.
Lucy, aged 35, is now a senior engineer and product owner at Renishaw in Gloucestershire - the county's largest private sector employer.
In 2017, she was named as one of the UK's Top 50 Women in Engineering. Quite an accolade.
Not too bad for a girl who was told by her maths teacher at a private school that deciding to leave to join Renishaw as an apprentice at 16 would be the worst decision she could make.
Lucy gained a first-class honours degree in mechanical engineering and is now a strong advocate for apprenticeships and women in engineering.
Supported by Renishaw, Lucy dedicates significant time to mentoring young people, organising STEM activities and advising on apprenticeship development.
In 2014, she won the Women's Engineering Society prize at the Young Woman Engineer of the Year awards.
It is against this background that Lucy has been chosen to join a Business West panel of inspirational women to celebrate International Women's Day on March 8 at our headquarters at Leigh Court, Bristol (details of the Eventbrite registration are at the end of this article).
I have followed Lucy's climb up the engineering ladder with Renishaw over the last 15 years, and the company deserves great credit for encouraging her progress and giving her excellent career opportunities.
At the age of 14 Lucy went to Sheffield University for a two-day taster weekend working with engineering companies.
"It was just amazing," she told me. "I had never experienced anything like it with the teamwork and creativity. I came back knowing that I wanted to be an engineer."
Lucy's mum, Clare, saw a Renishaw advertisement for apprentices in the Stroud News & Journal.
"I went into school and said I was going to apply for this apprenticeship, and it was at that point they said it would be the worst decision I could make. But I was a teenager and here's someone telling me not to do something, and that made me want to do it more."
She joined Renishaw as an apprentice on August 9, 2004, and her first pay day was on the day she received her GCSE results.
"I collected my results and went to the bank cashpoint - I had £555 in my account. I had never seen anything like it."
Years later, she had progressed to being an engineering ambassador for Renishaw in America visiting 11 states where she liaised with technical colleges and mentored students.
Lucy believes that many parents, teachers and careers advisers often do not understand the tremendous opportunities that engineering apprenticeship like hers with Renishaw are available.
"We need a lot more further education into the great opportunities that engineering represents for women.
"Going to university is not the be all and end all. You often don't know if those people who went to university got jobs as a result. Isn't that the goal - great jobs as apprentices with real career development?"
* To register for the Business West International Women's Day debate on March 8, go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/business-west-international-womens-day-tickets-522577622737
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