Lucy Ackland, winner of the 2014 WES Award.

Introducing Lucy Ackland winner of the 2014 Women's Engineering Society (WES) Award

Traveller, seamstress and potential film star (her claim to fame is playing an extra in a Harry Potter movie), Lucy Ackland currently works in Renishaw plc’s Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) Products Division.

Her role as product manager involves the overall project management of new additive manufacturing machine technologies – taking them from concept through to full production -  and Lucy has hugely enjoyed learning about this technology.

“I jumped at the opportunity because I was really interested in 3D printing since I first heard about it,” she explained. “It’s great when anything ‘engineering’ hits the headlines and people become interested. All types of people love 3D printing and that hasn’t happened in years! It’s become an exciting buzzword and I love that about it,” she said.

“3D printing could almost completely revolutionise the way we manufacture things,” she continued. “Some say it’s going to be the next industrial revolution! The possibilities are literally endless. I’ve never worked on a project like this and it’s really fascinating. The timescales are short because the technology is new, exciting and moving so quickly. People can’t wait to see what we’re doing.”

Career pathway

Passionate about her work and engineering in general, Lucy knew she wanted to be an engineer from the age of 13. Attending a Smallpeice Trust engineering experience weekend, she decided this was the career for her and from that moment focused on gaining STEM-related GCSEs and later applying for an apprenticeship.

“The key thing an apprenticeship brought me was the chance to get started early,” Lucy said. “If you know what you want to do, then why not? I’ve already got ten years' work experience when many people my age are just coming out of university.”

One of Lucy’s proudest achievements to date was getting a first-class honours degree, which she studied for while working.

“I’ve continued to study part-time, doing a degree via day release and not paid a penny for it! [Whatever route you take] you still end up with the same result, but with an apprenticeship you’re almost in a better position as you’ve got so much more experience. For me it was an obvious choice.”

Lucy is keen to keep expanding her knowledge and has pushed herself to learn more about electronics, software, wireless computing and 3D printing through research in her free time.

“I find many areas of engineering fascinating and strive to continue to push my learning further,” she said.

A keen volunteer

She also loves to share her experiences and promote engineering, and for many years has volunteered on STEM and engineering engagement projects.

“In the second year of my apprenticeship I started doing talks in schools and also volunteering for the educational charity Young Engineers,” she said. “I started running after-school clubs because I recognised how lucky I was to be given that opportunity at 13. I quickly realised that the more people I can tell my story to, or run an activity with, the more people I was giving that same chance to.

“I try and do as much engineering engagement as my time allows, ranging from seminars, training, and school visits through to after school clubs and visits to the factory,” she continued. “I really enjoy it and see huge importance in the benefit it can bring to the lives of young people.”

Last year Lucy was invited to be a director and trustee of Young Engineers, something she was honoured to take on. As part of this role she heads up the charity’s education and engagement special interest group and her main aim is to design and introduce fun and technically advanced activities for the staff and volunteers to run.

Lucy feels that becoming a WES award winner reinforces the volunteering work she undertakes and will hopefully bring attention to the work of groups and people like herself at a national level.

“For more and more people to hear about apprenticeships, 3D printing, people like us… it’s a great thing,” she said.

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