When I finished my GCSE’s I started my A levels as a lot of people do, however I didn’t enjoy them much so I wasn’t particularly interested. I was torn, as I wanted to go to university and at the time I thought A levels were the only way to do this. Personally I prefer a more hands on and practical approach to learning. Apprenticeships weren’t as common at the time but I liked the idea of learning theory at college and being able to apply what I had learnt directly to a workplace, exactly what an apprenticeship could offer.
I applied for a few engineering apprenticeships available in the local area back in 2009 but I was most interested in Cranfield as there is no better place to learn than a university. Cranfield offers such a wide variety of opportunities with the world class research that we do, the perfect place to begin a career in STEM.
There are many benefits of an apprenticeship, the main ones being; you earn a salary whilst you are studying, course fees are paid for by your employed, being able to put theory into practice (I think this helps with understanding) and learning even more from the people that you work with, stuff you can’t learn from books!
After my apprenticeship I began working as a technician at Cranfield, working in manufacturing and with the Applied Mechanics and Astronautics group. I worked in their labs designing and developing test facilities as well as assisting students with testing work for their projects. Alongside this I decided to do a Bachelor of Engineering (BEngs) degree part-time which allowed me to develop my knowledge in the areas that I was working in. Over the years I then began to specialise in mechanical engineering, working in automotive, precision, structural integrity, space, renewable energy, aerospace. The world really is your oyster at Cranfield. Once I finished my degree I decided to do a Master of Science (MSc) in Advanced Mechanical Engineering which helped progress my career to a Specialist Technical Officer.
Cranfield have certainly helped me get to where I am today. I have been given many opportunities. Being allowed to continue with higher education alongside my career has helped me progress a lot. After only 11 years I am a Chartered Engineer, with expertise in a wide range of areas within mechanical engineering including mechanical testing, stress analysis and structural integrity. I work on research projects with colleagues and clients which allows me to work on research which has worldwide impact and have even managed to publish a few research papers myself. I am also a line manager and mentor for a number of members of staff at the university, whilst leading a specialist aerospace test facility that we have built at Cranfield.
I would recommend an apprenticeship for so many reasons, including what I have mentioned. The only downside of distance learning is that you don’t get to enjoy the fun of university, however it will put you ahead of the others when it comes to your career. The advice I would give to anyone considering an apprenticeship is to do your research to make sure its the right apprenticeship for you. Make sure you ask a lot of questions and get involved as much as possible and to also make connections with those you work and learn with.
Apprenticeships are important to businesses as they can develop your skills according to their requirements. Although the academic side of your apprenticeship may be more generic, the work that you are doing and the internal training will be much more specialist and tailored to company needs. So if you’re thinking of applying for an apprenticeship, go for it, you won’t regret it!