Meet Kelsie Dugmore, Hitachi Construction Machinery UK’s first female engineer. Jeff Schofield asks what made her want to work in the challenging environment of heavy construction.

With a work history in aerospace and heavy diesel engineering Kelsie Dugmore joined Hitachi Construction Machinery UK in February this year. Her job title is HCT Special Applications Installation Engineer, we asked her what exactly that involves. “I fit the special applications systems on customer machines,” explains Kelsie. “This includes GPS systems, camera systems in addition to machine control and detection systems such as Xwatch.”

Kelsie says she was first attracted to the role as it looked interesting and gave the career challenge she was looking for, “Hitachi Construction Machinery UK is an impressive organisation and I’d heard many great things about the company. I’m learning new things all the time, as technology develops and the industry changes. Keeping up and evolving is what really interests me”.

With the pace of technological change accelerating and the level of new technology deployed on plant machinery increasing, Kelsie suggests that more machine autonomy will be the next big breakthrough.

“Self-controlled safety systems are coming,” Kelsie speculates, “It will probably be very similar to what is currently on the market but will involve even less user interaction. I’m all for any technological advancements, especially those involving and improving machine safety. I think new self-driving vehicle technology will transfer across to construction and then the sky is the limit.”

Engineering Apprenticeship

Like many before her, Kelsie started out as an engineering apprentice. “My apprenticeship was in mechanical and electrical engineering within PSV /HGV, it was basically heavy diesel engineering. I just knew that I wanted to work in the heavy diesel sector with sophistical electrical and hydraulic systems,” she explains. “I knew when I entered the industry that more engineers were desperately needed and that huge advances were coming very quickly especially in areas like emissions, electronic sensor systems and AI.

The industry needs new talent and with the advances coming that is only going to continue. HCMUK has just taken on three new apprentices. It is a great time to be an engineer, especially if you love the job, which I do.”

Prior to her apprenticeship, Kelsie had enjoyed working on cars in her spare time. “Apprenticeships weren’t really talked about at school, otherwise I would have got into one sooner,” she says. “They only really talked about University, and I left not really knowing what I wanted to do, so I ended up doing a business management diploma. I was working as a manager in a bar/nightclub, and it just wasn’t me at all, so I started applying for apprenticeships.”

Women in engineering

While women are still relatively under-represented in the engineering sector – in the UK women make up only 16.5% of engineers – this picture is changing. “It’s never been an issue or any sort of problem here at HCMUK.” she says. “I just see myself as being trained and qualified and no one here has ever really challenged that.”

When it comes to things like ‘Women in Construction Day’ and other ways of getting more women into the sector, Kelsie is enthusiastic. “I’m all for anything that makes women more aware of the opportunities out there for them,” she says. “They need to know these jobs are an option, especially the more obscure roles. A lot of school leavers don’t know that jobs like mine are an option because they’ve never been made aware of them, and they have no idea about the in-depth, day-to-day tasks and activities involved. That really needs to change.”

Kelsie’s short-term ambition is to master her current role at HCMUK – she’s still only just four months into the job – and beyond that perhaps to specialise further in one of the many developing new technology areas. “Advancing to a more technical role, furthering my systems knowledge and assisting in the development of new systems,” is how Kelsie describes her ambitions. “It will be interesting to see what opportunities there are in the future.”

“We are all genuinely interested in new technology and the latest trends in the industry, so I do discuss what’s going on with my colleagues and work mates,” she says. “The team is great, and my job is interesting.”

UKPO Magazine thanks Kelsie for her time and the insight into the new role with HCMUK. More clearly needs to be done within the education system so that more young people from whatever gender or background can have more choice about the real career options that open to them.