What made you choose an apprenticeship as a career route?
When studying for GCSEs, as I was predicted excellent grades, my school advised me on going to sixth form and completing A-levels as a stepping stone towards university. They took me and a small group of the high performing students to university conferences and tours of various universities in a bid to inspire us.
At this time in my life, I really hadn't contemplated undertaking an apprenticeship. However, when I went to sixth form I started to underperform due to the stress of A-Levels, and it impacted my mental health. Whilst this was going on, I had just been formally diagnosed as having dyslexia, and was still trying to find out how I learn best and identifying my coping mechanisms.
During the summer of my first year at sixth form, I completed a week’s work experience at Leonardo. I felt I was having the time of my life learning about engineering and meeting new people. We were looking at design, soldering things, and the whole week inspired me. I went back to college for a second year but did not do very well. At first, I thought, ‘I am never going to get to work for a company like that’.
Having completed my A-levels, I decided that university wasn’t for me, and I worked full-time for two years; however, I still dreamt of becoming an engineer with no idea of how I was going to do it. I couldn’t go back to full time education as I was already earning, and I didn’t think it would suit my learning style. So, I looked into apprenticeships and they almost seemed too good to be true. I would go to college one day a week to get professional qualifications, and I would be applying everything I learnt to the work in my role, which would reinforce my knowledge and keep me engaged and motivated - and I would still be earning an income! It was the perfect solution to start my career and achieve my dream job as an engineer.
What is your day-to-day role like, has it changed much due to the pandemic?
As a technical apprentice, my role can vary from day to day. I am currently completing a series of three-month placements across the business, while spend one day per week in college. At the moment, I am on an Antennas placement; on a daily basis, I run calibrations and tests in our anechoic chambers, process and analyse the test results, and design and simulate antennas using a CAD software.
The pandemic has changed some of the placements I go on, as I have had to work with some teams remotely, which was weird at first, because I was used to talking to people face-to-face. Thanks to Skype, I can message, video-call or present my screen so that I still learn and get the required support I need from the team I'm working with.
I have also been on some placements where I have worked with teams that need to be on site, as they can't do their job from home, so I have been able to work in the labs with the kit first-hand; it’s great that I can still get the same experiences.
What are the interesting projects you’ve worked on during your apprenticeship?
Working on Praetorian DASS (Defensive Aids Sub-System) has definitely been the most interesting project I have worked on during my apprenticeship. This is one of a handful of placements where I have been able to see the project through various angles whilst learning about different types of engineering. I got the chance to work on the integration team where I was able work on, and test, the whole of the DASS system. I loved this as it taught me about the product we sell in its finished state.
What has been the best thing about your apprenticeship, has anything surprised you?
The best thing about my apprenticeship is the fact that I get to apply what I learn in college to my everyday job. I find it easier to learn things whilst I'm doing them, so the structure of the apprenticeship is really tailored to suit my strengths.
One thing that surprised me on the apprenticeship is how everyone I have met is so genuinely happy to help with my learning. Whether I'm completing placement work for college assignments, or struggling with a new job concept or idea, everyone is so willing to share their knowledge and support me in my learning.
Is there anyone that you would like to thank or that you’d say has been the biggest influence on your success?
Well, there are a few people really. I'd like to thank my parents for raising me to have the strong work ethic, morals and soft skills that help me to excel in my apprenticeship. Not only that, but they always support the decisions I make and help lift my spirits whenever I am in doubt.
I'd like to thank my partner. Since meeting him, I have been the best version of myself and he always gives me a boost of encouragement when I need it most. It sounds cliché but he is my biggest fan, and it really boosts my confidence and motivation to have someone cheering me on in the sidelines.
And last but not least, I'd like to thank Fiona Clark; she is my biggest role model in the work place, and such an inspiring person to talk to, especially when you hear about all the amazing things she has achieved in her career! She helps guide me to new opportunities, and my time at Leonardo would be a completely different experience without her.
What have been your biggest achievements at Leonardo so far?
The biggest thing I have achieved in my apprenticeship so far is winning the Leonardo award for England Electronics Apprentice of the Year (Second Year), and UK Electronics Apprentice of the Year (Second Year). I had worked so hard in the second year, overcoming many challenges and getting involved with virtual STEM activities, and I'm so thankful to the person who saw all of my hard work and nominated me for the award.
Would you recommend an apprenticeship to people looking to make a first step in their career?
100% yes, yes, yes! I have done GCSEs and A-levels, but university wasn’t for me. My apprenticeship allows me to learn, gain qualifications that I can apply directly in a real-life working environment, and, if that wasn’t enough, get paid a wage to do it! It suits my learning style and allows me to play to my strengths which I believe is the key to success.
I wish someone had told me about apprenticeships sooner, and I would definitely recommend one.