What made you choose an apprenticeship as a career route?
I was not sure what I wanted to do when I left school. I had good grades, but I knew university was not for me. I worked in hospitality for several years before I decided to go for an apprenticeship, as I preferred working and gaining practical experience to full-time learning. With an apprenticeship, you are able to apply what you have learned in college to actual jobs you have to complete at work. The combination of learning and working really helped me to progress in college and at work. Being paid to ‘earn while you learn’ is a massive bonus as well - people get themselves into a lot of debt for something I was going to be paid for.
What is your day-to-day role like? Has it changed much due to the pandemic?
My day-to-day role can vary. Because I test the Vixen array and a number of its sub-assemblies, I can be testing a small board in the morning and then vibration testing a fully assembled unit in the afternoon. The constant change in my daily routine keeps me interested, as I am always learning something new; I also attend college once a week. My role has not changed much due to the pandemic, as I am part of the manufacturing team. I was working from home during the first lockdown but since then I have been back to site full time.
What are the interesting projects you have worked on during your apprenticeship?
I am currently working on the Gripen Radar, which is quite a young project compared to other products the company makes, so it’s interesting to be involved at the start of a project’s lifespan. I am also learning about the majority of the sub-assemblies that make up the full array, which gives me insight on how they all fit together.
I have been part of the apprentice cross-site forum, which is a group comprised of apprentices from all the UK Leonardo sites. We meet and discuss what STEM and charity events our sites have been doing, and have helped create the new start guide for the graduate apprenticeships. I was also part of a group of apprentices operating a stall at the Young Women in Engineering awards.
What has been the best thing about your apprenticeship? Has anything surprised you?
The best thing about my apprenticeship has been the people. Everyone is supportive of the apprenticeship programme and I have never worried about asking for support, as everyone is genuinely happy to help if you have a question or are struggling. I have made new friends within my apprentice group and my work placements. The biggest surprise for me was that from my first day I was working on actual projects within the company, not just stuck with making tea and coffee.
What have been your biggest achievements at Leonardo so far?
My biggest achievement so far has been getting an A for my Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Engineering Systems. I had been out of education for several years, so I was nervous about starting again. Certain subjects like Maths and the Physics classes were more challenging, but I received plenty of support from my college lecturers and passed all my classes. I am currently working towards my Higher National Diploma (HND).
I was also mentioned in the newspaper for being an older apprentice who had made the switch from hospitality to engineering. I was very proud of this because when I started looking for apprenticeships I was worried I would be too old and not have enough relevant experience to even be considered for any apprenticeships, never mind be accepted into one as competitive as Leonardo’s programme.
Would you recommend an apprenticeship to people looking to make a first step in their career?
Yes, I would absolutely recommend an apprenticeship for anyone looking to start a career. I think schools really push you towards university but it is not for everyone, and this is a great alternative to university. I have two years left on my apprenticeship before I become a qualified test engineer, and I have friends who are on the same salary as me now and they have a degree. The blend of learning and gaining on-the-job experience is great because you get to use what you learn, which makes both aspects of the apprenticeship easier. There are a few Vice Presidents within the company that started as 16 year-old apprentices, so an apprenticeship is definitely a good first step in your career.