We spoke to Charlotte Buckley, Process Improvement Engineer at Avon Protection based in Melksham. Avon Protection is part of Avon Rubber p.l.c. which is an innovative technology group with a varied history spanning 130 years. Today the business manufactures respirators and milking equipment and currently employs around 200 people at their UK site.
Charlotte told us that she came from a working-class background and after her GSCEs she went on to study Physics, Design Technology and General Studies at A Level.
Because Charlotte did not have a Maths A-level, she was unable to choose Mechanical Engineering at university but was able to apply for Engineering Design which is a creative rather than technical engineering discipline. However, a few weeks before the course was due to start at Aston University, the course was cancelled so she was offered the opportunity to study Design Engineering despite not having the usual desired combination of grades. Charlotte graduated with a 2:1 in Design Engineering.
Following university, Charlotte’s first role was on a graduate programme with Kerry Ingredients in Bristol as a Process Engineer. 12 months later Charlotte moved to Avon as a Design Engineer and has recently moved into a Process Improvement Engineer role.
This latest role involves improvements to product and process effectiveness, to ensure efficiency increases and reject decreases. Charlotte is involved with various projects, and supports new product and tooling implementation in the factory. She facilitates communication between suppliers, the shop floor and management teams so works across the whole business. Charlotte commented that this leads to high levels of interaction with people and a satisfaction in knowing you are problem solving every day and helping different stakeholders.
We asked Charlotte who or what got her interested in engineering and she very proudly told us that her Grandad was very influential in her career and study choices. He was an engineer, fixing diesel engines into trains and during the summer holidays he would create various projects with her. At around 12 years of age Charlotte realised she wanted to do something practical; she enjoyed physics far more than chemistry, and engineering which has a science base seemed like a natural choice.
Since graduating Charlotte has committed to a five-year plan during which time she hopes to achieve chartered status and she is currently furthering her academic knowledge through a master’s programme on a part-time basis and hopes to gain experience of managing a team shortly.
We asked Charlotte if there were any myths she wanted to dispel about engineering; she told us that often people think of engineers as mechanics but there are so many different kinds of engineers from computer engineers, design engineers and even food engineers! She also said that the routes into engineering have also changed over the last ten years or so, apprenticeships have made the sector more accessible than ever to those that do not want to go to university for whatever reason.
Her advice to young people, particularly young women interested in engineering, is to stick to their guns, follow your dreams and do not give in to peer pressure.