Skills Challenge: ‘Don’t miss the opportunity’

routeone interviews IRTE Skills Challenge winner Kelsie Dugmore on how she got involved in engineering, and what the Skills Challenge means to her 

Arriva’s Kelsie Dugmore first took part in the IRTE Skills Challenge in 2017, winning the runner-up awards for the DVSA Inspection Apprentice category and Top Scoring Mechanical Apprentice category. In 2018 she returned for a second time, winning the DVSA Inspection Apprentice award and the Outstanding Apprentice Team award alongside Dean Thomson and Christopher Morganrouteone speaks with Kelsie to find out why she got involved. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Kelsie Dugmore IRTEQ. How did you enter the bus industry? 

A. I was a business manager prior to working in the bus industry and I worked on my own cars. I much preferred being in engineering doing mechanics, so I thought I should change careers before I get too old. I was already 22 at the time, a lot older than most apprentices. I received offers for three different apprenticeships, and Arriva seemed the most interesting, since I would be working in passenger transport on larger vehicles. 

Q. Why did you gravitate towards passenger vehicles?

A. Firstly, I see it as a challenge because it’s a very male dominated industry. I also picked passenger transport because of how fast it’s evolving. The industry is continuously changing with new emissions standards, vehicle types and driveline technology.  

Q. How did you get involved in the Skills Challenge?

Q. I became involved because Lloyd Mason from Arriva mentioned it to me and asked if I wanted to take part. He explained how it worked, and I did a bit of research. Once I’d looked into IRTE and the Skills Challenge, I thought it looked scary, but also exciting, and something I wanted to be involved in. So I put in an application form, and got lucky.

Q. Were you nervous when you entered the Skills Challenge? 

A. I was very nervous.I think being a young apprentice and being exposed to all the different tasks, sponsors and brands, alongside the scrutiny, seemed very scary, but after doing it I would say it definitely isn’tThe Skills Challenge is a great way to network and meet colleagues and other apprentices. 

Q. As a woman, do you feel you have faced unique challenges?

A. I think so. Being a woman in the heavy diesel industry comes with negative connotations around your ability to do the job. I’ve had some people assume that, because I’ve won awards in the Skills Challenge, or I’ve made career achievements, or have progressed on to do higher education, I got where I am because of being a woman. But that’s completely not the case. The Skills Challenge is based on points and written exams – I did the same exam as everyone else. Wherever you come in the results reflects how you do in that task, which is another reason why I love the Skills Challenge – it’s completely unbiased and supportive of everybody who takes part.

Q. How can we challenge those negative stereotypes?

A. Role models. I am a member of, and huge advocate for, the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), a charity which offers support, networking and professional development for women in the industry. Alongside WES I continue to support the education of companies in diversity and inclusionI would like to get more involved with apprentices and young people in general when I’ve finished my HNC and HND in mechanical engineering, to encourage the next generation that anybody is able to work in these positions – it’s all down to willingness.  

Q. What would you say is the best way to prepare for the Skills Challenge? 

A. Cover the basics on the wide range of different areas of the vehicles and look atthings that might not be common to you, because the Skills Challenge often uses a variety of different heavy vehicles. Itemalternate between coaches and buses. Read about whats changing, the systems othe vehicles, and familiarise yourself with systems you might not have looked at recently – such as different types of suspension and brakes.  

Kelsie Dugmore Skills Challenge winner
Kelsie is a member of, and huge advocate for, the Women’s Engineering Society

Q. What are your overall thoughts on the Skills Challenge? 

A. It’s exciting, a fantastic way to network, a great way for brands to get their systems out and expose them to engineers in the field, and to put engineering apprentices in the field. It’s also a great way for IRTE to relate to apprentices and introduce them to the Society of Operations Engineers (SOE), of which I am a memberI’ve just put myself in to be professionally registered as wellAs a member and supporter of SOE and all of the training, networking and career development it offers, I was very excited to submit my application for professional registration in EngTech and I’m looking forward to being a part of SOE as my career in engineering develops.  

I highly recommend applying for professional registration through SOE, as it gives members an improved career status as well as demonstrating professionalism and dedication to the industry.

Q. And how did winning make you feel?

A. It meant a lot. It meantthat my efforts to improve were paying off. I was taking things in, learning them and applying them to an environment that wasn’t normal to me. 

Q. Is there more we can do to encourage young people to become coach and bus engineers? 

A. Absolutely. I think it needs to be introduced at a younger age in schools. If I knewabout the opportunities in the transport sector when I was still in school, I would have begun years prior to when I finally migrated. Apprenticeships were not spoken about in school when I was young, so the transport industry needs some light upon it – it’s a fantastic industry that’s continuously evolving, with a vast scope for what you can achieve. 

The Skills Challenge is an incentive for young people to get involved, be seen, meet new people, and potentially see different career paths and push themselves forward. If the opportunity arises to take part, don’t pass it up. You definitely will learn new things.