‘Look Beyond’ the traditional routes into employment

Young people are being asked to ‘Look Beyond’ the traditional routes into employment, and instead consider the diverse career options now available through apprenticeships.

As National Apprenticeship Week, now in its 13th year, starts today (Monday), the Government continues to call on employers and teachers to promote apprenticeships as viable career routes for young people, and the diverse benefits this unique type of training can offer. 

One of the sectors that offers a range of exciting apprenticeship opportunities and careers is the engineering sector. 

There are plenty of misconceptions about jobs in engineering, with only around one third of parents understanding what engineers do.

Through the Engineering: Take A Closer Look campaign, young people aged 11-16, their teachers and parents can learn more about what it takes to forge a career in the field – and the different routes in from graduate to vocational.

Todd Downs’s journey through an apprenticeship with Aston Martin has been highlighted by the Royal Academy of Engineering’s This Is Engineering campaign.

The 23-year-old from Coventry has been with the supercar manufacturer for six years, after serving a four-year apprenticeship.

What is your job and what do you enjoy about it?

I’m a Senior Quality Engineer within the Current Car Engineering (CCE) department.

I am responsible for the quality of my owned parts, as well as any engineering changes/ modifications that need to be carried out to improve our vehicles. 

I like that my role is incredibly diverse. One day, I could be visiting a supplier abroad in order approve a new part, the next I could be dismantling one of our engineering vehicles to trial a proposed improvement. 

Ultimately, every day is different and even though I belong to an Engineering department in a fast-paced manufacturing environment, I ultimately work for quality – we all strive to produce the best quality product possible using our engineering skills.

Why did you go down the apprenticeship route?

I didn’t particularly enjoy school and the idea of sixth form and university really did not appeal to me. I hated being stuck in a classroom, studying things that I didn’t have a passion for. I knew I enjoyed getting stuck into something hands on, and I also knew that I liked fast cars so why not pursue a career in two things I enjoyed?

I was lucky enough to be accepted for work experience at Aston, and after my week there I had my heart set on an apprenticeship there. The idea of working on and learning about these cars had me hooked, and I knew working for them was an achievable goal within the next year if I put my mind to it. Having the ability to “earn as I learn” was something that I had never really considered before, but once the team I was assigned to talked me through my options, I had made my mind up that I wanted to pursue an apprenticeship.

Why would you recommend an apprenticeship in engineering? 

I feel it’s incredibly important to gain hands-on experience in your field of engineering, and it’s quite common for universities to not actually offer that. An apprenticeship gives you the opportunity to be able to manually work on, design, change something, as well as teach you all of the theory behind it. I like understanding things, and an apprenticeship is perfect for someone like that.

Was there anything that surprised you about an apprenticeship?

I was incredibly surprised with the amount of trust and responsibility that is given to the apprentices once they are ready. As the apprenticeship at Aston Martin involved a rotation around all areas of manufacturing and engineering, I was involved with countless projects and activities that I never thought I would be trusted with at only 16 years of age.

I was even given the responsibility of leading various teams and projects towards the end of it; that’s immensely valuable experience for a young adult and it really makes you proud of what you’ve achieved.

What would you say to others thinking about a career in engineering?

I wouldn’t say that engineering is a career move for everybody, but if you’re interested in how things work and solving problems; it’s definitely something you should at least consider as an option. 

Once you’re involved and work within the industry, it is incredibly satisfying. You have the opportunity to innovate and improve anything you work with, and you can see projects that started as a rough sketch develop and evolve into a finished product.

What engineering myth would you like to bust?

“You need to be a straight-A student”. As I’ve said, I didn’t enjoy school and in all honestly, I didn’t apply myself as much as I could have when I was there.

I was never top of the class in any lessons and nothing ever naturally came to me like it seemed to with some other pupils. I’m not ashamed of my grades, but I did think that it could be a tipping factor when applying for my apprenticeship if somebody had better grades than me. 

Just remember that grades aren’t everything; they obviously help a lot, but don’t be too disheartened if your results don’t turn out exactly how you wanted – remember to stay keen and show your passion.

For more information visit www.apprenticeships.gov.uk

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