Are you considering applying for an apprenticeship but are perhaps unsure whether it's the right choice for you? Find out from our apprentices first hand as they share their stories of what they gained from their experience and the skills that they developed.
For Rob McFadden, the orthodox, four or five year degree in Aerospace Engineering was not best suited to his needs. Instead, he opted to go down the apprenticeship degree route with BAE Systems after completing a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Engineering at Runshaw College.
“BAE Systems offers two degree apprenticeships; the first one which I am undertaking is an Aerospace Software Engineering apprenticeship. This is a four-year programme with two days studying at the University of Central Lancashire and three days in eight-month placements at Warton and Samlesbury,” Rob said.
Rob is enjoying every minute of the degree apprenticeship, particularly how hands on the placement side of the course is. Rob is currently producing mission-planning code and testing mission-planning features for the Offboard Mission Support team within the F-35 programme.
“One of the best parts of the apprenticeship is working in different placements from simulation to flight testing,” Rob said.
“I have also worked in the Modelling and Testing Environment team, where I produced a digital Multifunction Heads Down Display (MHDD) for the Eurofighter Typhoon cockpit team.”
“Working in different placements lets you learn from colleagues who are experts in the field, and gain insights you can only get from real-world experience. There are also plenty of chances to work abroad, work all over the country, and participate in all kinds of development opportunities,” Rob added.
Although Rob has no regrets about embarking on the apprenticeship degree, he has encountered some difficulties along the way. In the end, hard work would eventually get him through the hurdles that were placed in front of him.
“The most challenging aspect is time management. I am currently studying for a degree, a Level 4 NVQ qualification and completing work placement tasks. I soon figured out a way of managing my time well and quickly enjoyed the rewards,” Rob said.
Rob McFadden is certainly a success story from apprenticeship degrees and an example to look at when weighing up the benefits of taking such a route. He recommends it to anyone interested in aerospace software engineering and has offered the following advice for hopeful applicants:
“Make sure you’re doing all you can to make your application the best it can be - having a part-time job, completing a Duke of Edinburgh Award and volunteering are all great things to have on your application. Spend as much time on your application as you can, don’t rush it.”
Aspiring Assistant Practitioner Julie Thornton had a plethora of qualifications to her name before she embarked on her Apprenticeship Degree in Health and Social Care.
“I decided to do the Degree Apprenticeship to attain a higher qualification and an advancement in a work setting to support colleagues and patients,” Julie explained.
Julie, who is part of the Endoscopy Department of University Hospitals Trust South Manchester, has a big role to play at the hospital, with the unit never previously having an Assistant Practitioner employed.
“I’m currently developing more skills in all areas including more therapeutic work, basic consent and discharges, supportive role in ERCP, on call duties with registered nurses and outreach work within working hours, once qualified,” Julie added.
Alongside the practical work Julie is undertaking at the University Hospitals Trust South Manchester, there is written work to be completed too, which she admits can be overbearing at times.
“The portfolio seems immense alongside studying, exams and assignments whilst working and developing the role at work. I’d say the portfolio has been the most challenging aspect so far.”
Julie’s short-term aims are just to carry on working hard and to support her team to the fullest of her abilities and she hasn’t ruled out pursuing a career in nursing once her Apprenticeship Degree comes to an end.
Twenty-one-year old Jack Bishop had an interest in Software Development from an early age and realised that the Software Engineering Degree Apprenticeship was ideal for him, allowing him the opportunity to start his career debt free and with four years Software Engineering experience.
Jack explains how the Degree Apprenticeship works: “The degree primarily splits into three parts that we have to balance on a weekly basis; the university degree, the level 4 standard and the work placements. In term time, two days of the week are spent at the University of Central Lancashire attending lectures and labs working towards the Software Engineering degree. The remainder of the week will be based in a placement within a BAE Systems location (Warton Aerodrome or Samlesbury Aerodrome).
“Being based in real world placements gives me responsibility to deliver work to a high standard and strict deadlines,” Jack adds. “My favourite part of the job is knowing the work I do is beneficial to the products we deliver. Instead of being given tasks where I may not feel particularly useful, I know that I am developing software that will help push up the quality of the product.”
The degree isn’t without its challenges. “Balancing the different aspects of the apprenticeship (Level 4 standard, placement work and the degree) was a big learning curve early on in the apprenticeship,” Jack explains. “Each apprentice is responsible for creating a schedule that works for them. Even though the apprenticeship requires high time management skills, it is very rewarding overall.”