Throughout my school career I always enjoyed STEM subjects, although I was unsure what I wanted to do as a career. I have danced from a young age, and still loved the idea of dancing professionally. At the age of 13 I had to decide on what GCSE subjects I wanted to take, I knew a technology based subject was a must for me. Double Award Engineering was an option which combined my strengths and the subjects I enjoy, so I chose to take this as one of my options; I also undertook German, French and Geography alongside the core subjects. The Double Award Engineering GCSE gave me my first insight into Engineering and it quickly became one of my favourite subjects and it certainly started the desire to pursue a career in engineering.
Double Award engineering involved learning about a variety of manufacturing processes, different engineering businesses and types of engineering.
We also had to design a product having received a specification and work to meet the different needs of our “client”; this developed my passion for solving a problem further and also meant I used CAD (Computer Aided Design) software for the first time. Thankfully my teacher pushed me to persist with this as I found it tough to begin with and it has paid off as now I use it on a daily basis.
After excelling at my GCSEs, I continued at 6th Form, and studied Maths, Physics, Product Design and German (to AS level) as these were the subjects I enjoyed the most. Doing what I enjoyed was something that was important to me as I knew that the courses would all be difficult. I applied to University and received offers back from all of the Universities that I applied to, including an unconditional offer from the University of Hull. Although I applied for universities, I also applied for apprenticeships and after hearing that you can learn and be in full time employment gaining valuable experience at the same time with prestigious companies this really inspired me. I enjoyed my whole school career but by the time I had reached 6th form I knew I didn’t want to remain in an environment purely for education, I wanted to be pushed to achieve bigger things and learn valuable skills within a work environment.
The big decision about definitely wanting to do Engineering came after I had an injury from dancing during my first year at 6th form and realised I’d rather do that as a hobby and engineering as a full time career; from that point I was looking at what I wanted to do after A-Levels. After our first year of exams we received more talks about University and began thinking about writing out our personal statements. Hearing more and more about being at university full time made me realise that I didn’t want to do that, yet when I looked into the apprenticeship route it just appealed to me so much more. I have always been more of a kinaesthetic learner that likes to put the links between the theory and the real life uses and see how what I learn is relevant. I knew that going into a business doing an apprenticeship would be the best way for me to learn and for me to be most effective and motivated to study.
My Apprenticeship Journey
I started my apprenticeship journey by looking at what different apprenticeships were on offer by browsing different company websites and looking at what was on offer. Due to JCB being a well-recognised company with a good reputation that happens to be local to me this drew me to it. I liked the fact that with the location of JCB I would still be able to live at home instead of relocate; although many of the other Higher Apprentices on my course did relocate and had support in doing so. I then looked at what the requirements were and what their apprenticeship would entail, from this point I made the decision and applied online.
Following on from the application, I was invited to an intense assessment day where a variety of assessment activities had to be completed, including an interview. Having completed this day, I had to wait to receive a phone call but I was ecstatic to when I got the news that I had received an offer for a place on the JCB Higher Apprenticeship. Having received the grades I needed I was then able to begin my career at JCB in August 2016. I am now a second year Engineering Higher Apprentice working at JCB Compact Products training to be a Design Engineer.
Day to day my work varies; no two days are ever the same. Some days I will be in the office for most of the day, and other days I barely sit down due to going out onto the line or into the workshop to check how builds on projects are going. As well as my day job I often support careers events or visit schools to talk about the great opportunities that are on offer via an apprenticeship. By participating in these talks and events I am able to be a role model to others to support and encourage them to consider a similar route. Also being a female doing these talks about a mainly male dominated career route it is able to encourage others girls to consider it and understand that it isn’t a bad thing being one of the few females within the office. Since doing these talks I have been told about people that have applied for apprenticeships due to hearing more about them having listened to a talk I’ve done; this makes me feel proud that I’ve been able to influence others in their decisions towards their futures. Encouraging others to pursue a career in what they enjoy is something that should be done more in schools instead of just encouraging students to achieve the highest grades possible. If students have a goal at the end of their exams they are likely to work harder and enjoy what they do- this was certainly the case for myself; once I found out I had an offer it pushed me to work harder to achieve my final grades.
I started at JCB in the summer of 2016 and since then I have been given so many different opportunities. Many of these have been for personal development, I was incredibly lucky and grateful to be one of the apprentices that were involved in the photoshoot with the Williams Formula 1 car and Lord Bamford when it was being announced that JCB were sponsoring their team.
I was a member of 9 JCB apprentices that took part in the National Competition, The Brathay Apprentice Challenge 2017. This involved undertaking many challenges such as promoting apprenticeships to young people, businesses and completing a community project for the NSPCC. The team were thrilled to make it through to the finals in the Lake District, and out of 75 teams we placed 3rd, this was a massive achievement, especially as it was JCB’s first year to enter. All apprentices are taken to Brathay in the Lake District for outdoor development training which is a great experience and also allows you to push yourself, reflect and get to know others better.
As an apprentice we are also given the opportunity to do a placement each year in a different role until we are off scheme. I undertook my placement at Loadall working within the development department, having opportunities like this is so beneficial for networking within the business but also to learn many new skills. In order to do this placement I had to do my Loadall driver training and gain my licence to be able to drive these which personally I feel is a great opportunity.
The Level 4, Higher Degree Apprenticeship involves 1 day a week at the JCB academy in your 1st 2 years studying towards your integrated engineering foundation degree and the following 2 years are then spent 1 day a week at Sheffield Hallam studying towards your BEng- mine will be in mechanical engineering as this is the route I have chosen. The other 4 days a week are spent in your business unit where you spend your time working like anybody else in the business. This is really beneficial as you are able to see where the knowledge you are learning is relevant. Also in your first few years you do a 10 week placement as well at a different business unit. This placement allows insight into different job roles and also the different business units as well as giving you a wider network of people that you know within the business.
I feel that at some point I may like to move into development; as during my placement I found the variety of roles really interesting and enjoyable. I look forward to seeing what job roles I will have the opportunity to do in the future and how they will challenge me in different ways. I also hope that at some point I will be able to have the opportunity to travel and work abroad within the company as I feel a lot of knowledge would be gained.
My family and friends have been incredibly supportive of me choosing an apprenticeship with JCB. Knowing that I wasn’t going to be getting myself into debt due to University fees and the fact that I was going into a job straight away was something that certainly made my parents happy. Also I think that my friends and family were glad about me doing an apprenticeship was that they could see that that was what I wanted to do and that it pushed me to work hard at 6th form as I had my eyes set on the goal.
My tips for anyone wanting to do an apprenticeship are that it is important to do an apprenticeship in something you enjoy and are passionate about, because there are always going to be days that are tough, but if you enjoy what you do then the tough days are completely outweighed by the great days. Also I would say that you need a solid work ethic as you are in a work environment as well as doing a degree course, therefore a lot of the work is off your own back. I think one of the most important things is don’t be afraid to ask questions, it’s the only way you’ll learn and everyone is willing to help you or find someone that can if they are unsure of the answer themselves.
There is no doubt about it, doing an apprenticeship is difficult and requires hard work and determination. In comparison to university where you can study every day and have more hours free to complete work, doing the degree alongside working full time is hard and requires planning and good time management. At times it seems to be the route that is looked down upon as the less academic route in comparison to going to University but this isn’t the case at all as we all had to achieve our A-level grades and we are still doing University just not on a full time course and whilst working as well.
Finally, I would like to say, if you want it, go for it. It may not be the easiest option looking for an apprenticeship but it might be the best decision you ever make in starting your career! Working in such a large company with so many business units means that there are the opportunities for progression as long as you pursue them and work hard. In the future I am unsure where my journey at JCB will take me but I look forward to becoming a full time engineer and working in a business that pushes me to progress.