A passionate promoter of both apprenticeships and women in engineering, Laurie-Ann plans to use her award to reach out to even more school pupils and show where engineering can take them.
Laurie-Ann Benner currently works as a condition based monitoring (CBm) engineer within PEME’s reliability team, carrying out condition-based maintenance using techniques such as thermal imaging, oil analysis, ultrasound diagnostics and vibration analysis.
She began her career as an apprentice, following the footsteps of her now husband who had taken up an apprenticeship to become a plant and forklift truck engineer. She was also guided by her granddad, an engineer himself, who told her: “if you’ve got a trade, you’ve got it for life”.
Apprentice – an easy career decision to make
She was keen to enter the workplace and begin to earn money, and so it was an easy career decision to make. She didn’t want the debt that came with university and knew her family wouldn’t be able to help her through, and so an apprenticeship was the perfect option for her.
As a CBm engineer her current role entails completing breakdown investigations on major failures and suggesting corrective actions by applying root case analysis (RCA) and reliability centred maintenance (RCM) techniques. After providing improvement recommendations she works alongside the maintenance team carrying out the repairs and develops a documented maintenance procedure for future training requirements.
What she loves about her job
She enjoys getting to see an entire project through from start to finish, i.e. being called in to find a problem and leaving having found and fixed it, but her career highlight so far has been completing a training rig from scratch.
“I designed and built it from scratch, and it’s now being used to train current PEME apprentices,” she says proudly.
Laurie-Ann loves the variety of her work, and the different things she has been able to try out at PEME.
“There’s loads of different departments so there’s lots of things to get into, and I love the variety,” she says. “You never get bored as you’re going up and down the country, they keep me busy! But seriously, each visit is always different and you never know what might happen. It’s fantastic!
“I haven’t travelled yet, but the company does deal with jobs in China, Vietnam and Brazil too, so that’s another option available to employees,” she adds.
A fully qualified mechanical engineer, Laurie-Ann has had great support from her employer, with the MD having built a unique career progression route for her, utilising and improving her skills. She is currently focusing more on the thermal imaging side of her work, but plans to move up the ladder into supervisory and management roles.
Second time lucky
Laurie-Ann originally applied for the IET’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year award back in college two years ago. She wasn’t shortlisted on that occasion but decided to reapply this year.
“I tried again and got through to the finals,” she says. “I felt that I’d done a lot more since my original application, such as thermal imaging, oil sampling and had been assigned to mentor people within the company, so wanted to try again.”
Promoting women in engineering
Completely voluntarily, Laurie-Ann has spent several years using her passion for the industry to influence more women to take up careers within engineering, and she hopes that winning this award will help her further her outreach work.
She was originally recruited into this area by her college, which was very keen to get her involved in helping more women ‘discover’ engineering.
“I got involved in several local campaigns, appearing in local papers and radio and visiting lots of local schools. I think everyone in Wisbech got fed up of seeing my name,” she laughs. “But it was brilliant because these guys got me involved in this kind of thing. It’s a great platform for me to get the message out there that there’s an opportunity for women to go into this sector. I like showing other girls the opportunities out there, that it’s not a route that’s closed to them,” she says. “Many young women just don’t really know much about engineering (and I’m changing that).”
These days her focus is on visiting secondary schools, telling students a bit about her career and answering their questions. They go away having learnt more about apprenticeships, engineering career opportunities and what life is really like as a female engineer.
A charity fundraiser since childhood
As if she wasn’t already giving back enough, Laurie-Ann has been a charity fundraiser since she was eight years old and believes she’s raised over £25,000 for different charities over the years.
“That’s my dad’s influence,” she explains. “The first thing I did was a ten mile walk with my parents when I was eight. Because he always did them we join him once a year. We’ve done a 75 mile charity walk and this year was 88 miles, however we had to do that in three stages because of bad traffic,” she says.
“We’ve given to charities such as Make a Wish, Papworth Hospital and Cats Protection,” she continues. “We don’t just do walks, we’ve also done swims and even wheelbarrow pushes – taking turns to push each other for ten miles! It’s all sorts of silly things but it’s good fun and really enjoyable – especially when you hand over the cheque at the end!”
Watch Laurie-Ann’s YWE finalist video and find out more about this year’s IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards.