Carly O'Hagan

Edinburgh  08 March 2022
Design Engineer Graduate Apprentice

Meet Carly, a Design Engineer Graduate Apprentice at our Edinburgh site.

What did you study at school?

At school, I studied six Highers, including Business Management, Design & Manufacture, English, Graphic Communication, Maths and Physics. I then went on to study Design & Manufacture and Graphic Communication at an Advanced Higher level, as well as studying for a National 5 in Engineering Science.

What made you choose an apprenticeship as a career route?

I chose an apprenticeship after being fortunate enough to participate in a week’s work experience with Leonardo. I spent the week gaining an insight of the various engineering departments here, and the opportunities available. This is what initially made me consider applying for an apprenticeship. 

However, I had always planned to go to university to study for an engineering degree. When I learned of Leonardo’s degree level apprenticeship, I was convinced this was the route I was wanting to take. That way, I was able to experience the best attributes of both routes.

What is your day-to-day role like? Has it changed much due to the pandemic?

I spend three days per week on site in the Mechanical Engineering department. I am involved in various Mechanical Engineering elements of Leonardo products, and am specifically based within the radar group of the business. Here, I spend my time assisting in the design, development and support of our radar products. I then spend two days per week at home carrying out my studies towards a BEng (Hons) in Engineering: Design & Manufacture. My studies consist of watching lectures, as well as taking mini quizzes; the course was already set up to be based largely online prior to the pandemic. I was scheduled to attend the University of Strathclyde once a month.

What interesting projects have you worked on during your apprenticeship?

Throughout my apprenticeship, I have largely worked on radar projects, although I am now based within the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) group. Here, I have been involved in many interesting projects, one of which is Seaspray. I have found it very intriguing to go onto the hall floors and see for myself the radars that I am working on daily. Also, it is quite interesting working for Leonardo’s important clientele, such as the UK Ministry of Defence. 

What has been the best thing about your apprenticeship? Has anything surprised you?

The best part about my apprenticeship is definitely studying towards my degree and how the programme is set up. It has really removed a lot of the stress people may have found by working whilst also studying. Leonardo accommodates two days towards my studies, which makes it very comfortable to fit in plenty of time. Also, the university awards credits towards my degree for doing my day-to-day job. A large section of the marks awarded in my third and fourth year are based on a project I work on during my department time; this really makes the balance between the two very easy.

What have been your biggest achievements at Leonardo so far?  

My biggest achievement during my apprenticeship has been gaining my final placement in the Mechanical Engineering department. When I entered the business, my mind was made up that I wanted to join this department, and going through the rotational placements only confirmed this. So to finally get the placement I wanted from the beginning, was the ideal start for the career path I had envisioned for myself. This, I felt, was a big accomplishment, as it reflected the effort and resilient attitude I had shown over the two years of rotational placements to finally get to a place I had set my mind to.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship to people looking to make a first step in their career?

I would definitely encourage people to consider an apprenticeship. It really has so many benefits, including the ‘earn whilst you learn’ incentive. Although I enjoy my studies at Strathclyde, the experience you gain working on site in a real-world engineering environment is hard to compare to. I feel that having the combination of experience of working alongside engineers, as well as studying, goes very much hand in hand.

Apprenticeships at Leonardo

Apprenticeships at Leonardo

Our highly-regarded apprenticeship programmes – covering hardware and software engineering, business and cyber security – offer intensive training programme lasting 2-4 years, which results in apprentices graduating with a substantial depth of skills in their specialist area.