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.”
Degree Apprenticeship student Daniel Parkinson, currently studying part-time on the BSc (Hons) Quantity Surveying, believes that his decision to study at UCLan is already paying off. Daniel, who is in the second year of his studies, credits the quality of the facilities and the teaching at the University, while also recognising the professional body-accredited degrees that are on offer here.
“I chose UCLan as it provides an RICS accredited degree, and it is also the closest one to my home,” he started. “A few of my work colleagues have also studied here, with all of them receiving a first-class honours degree, so it made complete sense to study here and hopefully achieve the same. My partner also studied at the university and couldn’t have recommended it more.
“The classrooms are very well located for all of the lectures and seminars, and the University has everything you could need to undertake your degree. The teachers are helpful in sharing their vast knowledge of the industry they have worked in, allowing students to gain the best knowledge we can for our future careers.”
Having already spent a few years working in construction, Daniel says he jumped at the chance to come to UCLan in order to continue his progress. His current employers gave him that opportunity through a Degree Apprenticeship, and it is one that he has certainly grabbed with both hands. The qualification that he is now working towards is a vital part of the journey towards his goal.
“I currently work at Sellafield for Balfour Beatty on the BEP project,” he stated. “I’ve also worked on the SMF project there too. When Balfour Beatty offered me the opportunity to undertake the apprenticeship I knew this would be the course for me. It is also part of my learning development which I knew I wanted to undertake.
“Working in construction from the age of 16 I knew that I wanted to continue my career in the industry. Being on a degree apprenticeship, a part-time QS degree is part of the process that needs to be undertaken.
“Working in the nuclear industry is extremely interesting and challenging & one I would recommend to anyone looking for an exciting career. I also couldn’t recommend Balfour Beatty as an employer more, the projects they obtain are second to none in the industry and the people you work with and learn from are incredible for anyone’s development.”
Daniel has already overcome some significant challenges during his time at UCLan, as being a part-time student throws up issues that those who are at the University full-time don’t have to deal with.
However, he thinks that the hard work and dedication will all be worth it when he graduates and moves closer to his desired career.
“Being a part time student poses its challenges, as the need to juggle work life, home life and university life can be difficult, but we knew what we were signing up to,” he admitted.
“Having to get the assignments in on time isn’t the easiest of tasks, but being prepared and managing time well is a definitive factor for ensuring this can be achieved.
“The main memory I have [so far] is the time I opened my end of year results. I would never have envisaged I would have achieved the overall percentage I did when I started in September 2017. Having been in the bottom/middle sets for most of my high school subjects I could never have imagined I would have got to this stage.
“My advice to any prospective students would be to take university seriously, as it’s your chance to gain the qualifications you need to prepare you for your chosen career.”