Kayley Manns

17 January 2023
Craft Mechanical Apprentice

Meet Kayley, Leonardo apprentice at our Yeovil site – the Home of British Helicopters. After beginning her career outside of engineering, Kayley tells us how her love aviation and a hands-on job drew her to Leonardo.

In 2023, Kayley was named winner of the Engineering Apprentice Rising Star award at the Make UK Manufacturing Awards national final.

What is your current role at Leonardo?

I am a final year craft mechanical apprentice, and I will soon start the apprenticeship degree programme. My job gives me placements on the Norway SAR AW101, UK MOD Merlin and Wildcat programmes, and International Lynx aircraft. 

What did you study at school? 

I did not have a career in engineering in mind when I was studying. I took AS Levels in Psychology, Fine Art, and Business, before moving on to college to complete a Level 3 BTEC in Sport: Outdoor Adventure. 

Before applying to Leonardo, I had been working in the outdoor adventure industry in various locations around the world; although this work was fun, I could not see it being my full-time career in the future. 

Why did you decide to join Leonardo?

When considering where I wanted to go with my career, I knew I wanted to continue working in a hands-on job. Growing up in the area around Yeovil meant I had always seen the helicopters flying overhead, so applying for a craft apprenticeship at Leonardo provided an ideal opportunity to take a step towards a new career.

Why did you choose an apprenticeship? 

Unlike the majority of apprentices, I applied to work at the company when I was 21 years old and was financially independent. The appeal of an apprenticeship was that I could retrain in a completely new skill sector while being paid to do so, as well as getting to experience many areas of the company throughout my programme.

Since starting my craft apprenticeship, I have studied Level 2 and Level 3 BTECs in Aerospace Engineering, which has allowed me to start my education in aerospace from the basics and gain an appreciation for the theory behind the aircraft and their construction.

Tell us what you do in a typical day

As a craft mechanical apprentice I get to work on the aircraft every day. Depending on the placement I am in, I can be working on anything from the construction of the airframe; installing mechanical systems such as flying controls, transmission, and hydraulics; testing the systems to make sure they operate correctly; to being in flight shed working with an aircraft that is going through flight test. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love that I get to see the entire product lifecycle through the production line. There are not many jobs in which you can see a helicopter get built from boxes of components all the way through to seeing it in the sky, and I get to experience a real appreciation for the work that goes into creating the final product.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

Outside of work I am still invested in the outdoor adventure industry, and spend weekends on the coast path or water-paddle boarding and windsurfing (although this can depend on the weather now that I am no longer paid for it!). I also am a huge fan of Lego, so on colder days I spend time adding to my growing collection of builds.

What have been your biggest achievements at Leonardo so far?

I have been lucky enough to represent the company at various events during my time here, but a stand out moment has been talking to MPs in Parliament at the ADS Group Apprentice Reception, where I had the opportunity to discuss my experiences of being an apprentice within the aerospace and defence sector.

In January, I won the 2022 Make UK Engineering Rising Star Award at the national finals in London, having initially been named as South Regional winner last year. It was fantastic to see my hard work pay off, and I was extremely proud to be given this award as a female shop floor apprentice.

What are your career aspirations?

I am moving away from the shop floor next year and starting a new degree apprenticeship to with the company. I have a keen interest in the future of aviation, specifically how the industry is going to become more sustainable, and I want to research the energy and materials that can be used to achieve this. After my degree, I am hoping to be part of a team that looks at these aspects and works on environmentally friendly aircraft.

I have also always wanted to be an astronaut, which is definitely a dream job if I could ever reach it. Tim Peake is a bit of a hero of mine, seeing how he worked as a Test Pilot at our Yeovil site and became the first British astronaut on the ISS. If I could use my experience within the aerospace industry to take my career onto space programmes, that would be a huge aspiration of mine.