Women in Engineering Day - Jade McGinnity, Lucy Electric

To celebrate Women in Engineering Day (23rd June) we meet Jade McGinnity, the first female Electrical Engineering Apprentice at Lucy Electric. Jade is setting a fantastic example, recognised when she won the Freemen of Oxford Award for Electrical Engineering in March this year.

Lucy Electric, part of international group W. Lucy & Co. Ltd, is based in Thame, Oxfordshire. The company Specialises in high-performance switchgear, developing and supplying intelligent solutions and services for utility, industrial and commercial applications, which enables the safe and reliable distribution of energy to homes and businesses worldwide.

Jade is currently in her third year of an Electrical Engineering Apprenticeship at Lucy Electric. She completed A Levels in human biology, psychology, physics and maths at St Gregory the Great Catholic School in Oxford. During her time in sixth form, Jade researched her options and considered going to university to study either nursing or psychology, or pursuing her interest in maths and physics into a career in engineering.

Jade had been interested in maths and physics from a young age, but didn’t know much about engineering. After looking into it, Jade decided that she wanted to be an engineer and that the best way to start a career in engineering would be through an Apprenticeship rather than by going to university. She says: “I didn’t just want the theory; I wanted the practical side as well.”

Training provider The Engineering Trust helped Jade to find her Apprenticeship with Lucy Electric. She says: “When I came to look at Lucy Electric I noticed that a lot of people had been here for a long time, so it seemed like it must be a good place to work with plenty of opportunities, I also liked that it had started as a family company.”

Family is important to Lucy Electric and when Jade secured her Apprenticeship and started in September 2013, her parents were invited to a coffee morning to find out about the Apprenticeship, meet the Chairman and supervisors and have a tour of the site. Jade says: “When I was offered the Apprenticeship at Lucy Electric, I actually felt quite relieved because I had also been accepted to do a psychology degree at Portsmouth University, but I knew that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. So I was pleased and keen to start.”

Jade started her Apprenticeship at the same time as three other new Apprentices, who are following the mechanical engineering route. There were already three Engineering Apprentices at Lucy Electric when Jade started and the firm has since taken on a further two.

Jade says: “I spent the first six months of my Apprenticeship at Abingdon & Witney College full time, with one day a week spent on day release learning the theory and the other four days spent in the workshop learning practical skills. I found this really helpful as I had some knowledge from my maths and physics, but no practical experience, so it gave me that. The day release continued for the first two years so that I continued to learn the theory alongside what I was learning in the workplace.”

“Apprentices do four different placements during the first two years, which helps us to get an overview of the company and learn the business and it’s useful to know what other people do. It also helps us decide which area we want to work in when we finish. I was taken on to go into services and I’m going to spend another six months there now I’ve finished my four placements, to help me decide if that’s the right place for me.”

“As well as getting involved in lots of hands-on work like testing and building units, I also have the opportunity to observe more experienced colleagues to gain knowledge and learn from watching the way they do things. I also do some design work on the computer.”

Jade has found her colleagues at Lucy Electric to be really supportive throughout her Apprenticeship. She says: “I didn’t know what to expect when I started. Everyone is really helpful, even with my college work, they’re always happy to help.”

Jade has continued into higher education too as part of her Apprenticeship and has started working towards an engineering degree. She says: “I have just started a foundation degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Abingdon & Witney College and I hope to go on to the BSc top up course at Oxford Brookes in the future.”

Jade’s top tips… “Make sure you research all your options. Speak to your teachers, especially in those subjects you’re interested in and find out as much as possible about the choices you have. If young women think they might be interested in engineering I would say try it and not let the fact that it is a male dominated profession put them off.”