Freedom to earn while you learn is a big attraction for apprenticeships
Engineering Learning on the job, in the real world, was the biggest attraction for an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering says Jamie D’Ath.
1. Why did you go into mechanical engineering?
"I love chemistry and technology. After a work experience placement, I knew I wanted to get into something that combined science and tech with analysis thrown in too."
2. How did you become an apprenctice?
"I was aware that apprenticeships existed but my school was more focussed on the university route, so didn’t promote an apprenticeship as a truly viable option.
"The first time I really considered an apprenticeship was when I entered the Robot Rumble competition, sponsored by the defence company – and my now current employer – MBDA. I got talking to them about apprenticeships and what they could offer, which really inspired me. I found out MBDA is a part of a scheme called the 5% Club where member organisations aim to have at least 5% of their workforce in ‘earn and learn’ positions, which highlights its commitment to developing apprentices.
"I was thrilled to be accepted for a role here. My school still made me try for a university place though – just in case!"
3. How have you found being a young woman in mechanical engineering?
"Ultimately, while there is still a large gender diversity gap, it’s shrinking and there’s nothing holding women back from succeeding in the industry.
"So far, my experience has been great. I’ve not had a single problem, and everybody I have worked with has been really nice - they don’t seem to see me as different because I’m a woman and instead treat me the same as anybody else.
"I do think working for a company that genuinely believes we need a more balanced workforce has made my experience much more positive."
4. Who’s your role model?
"My mum. She worked as an engineering apprentice when she was my age and had been an early trailblazer in that way. She was working in mapping when she started a family and the men where she worked at the time really didn’t want to see her go.
"She kept up her interest in engineering, working as a classroom assistant who could help out on any engineering topics and I’m sure her interest and knowledge contributed to my choice of career."
Photo left: Jamie with a MBDA Brimstone Missle
5. Apprentices talk about gaining real-world experience. Do you agree?
"For me, learning in the real world is the main benefit of an apprenticeship over university. I’ve been given freedom and responsibility in my work, which has allowed me to grow both professionally and personally.
"A project I ran looked at how we might be able to safely dispose of products. It wasn’t just a fascinating project; I was also given the independence to run it myself. It exposed me to work that involved combining safety and logistics with networking around the company that I feel I could never have received at university."
6. What would you say to a young woman considering a career in STEM?
"Engineering isn’t all about guys in hi-vis jackets, hard hats and muddy boots (although there certainly is some of that, if that’s what you’re after!) The clincher for me is that the opportunities in mechanical engineering are endless. If I want to be working on missile trials, I can. If I want to move into missile design, I can – and that’s just within the company I work for.
"There’s a lot of choice on where you take your career."
7. What do you think can be done to make children, particularly young women, aware of how they can pursue a career in STEM industries?
"There needs to be more media campaigns that show young people just how diverse careers in STEM are and employers need to reach out to schools.
"Personally, I’ve seen how STEM outreach can excite young people and make them more aware of the opportunities available to them.
"I do a lot of work with my old school as a mentor promoting careers in engineering and other STEM subjects, with my employer giving me time out of work to do this. I help out with Robot Rumble, a project where school children are given parts they can build a robot from, which they then enter into competitions.
"It’s really important for me to work for a company that continuously explores new ways of engaging with young people and activitely encourages its employees to get involved."
8. What would you say to a young person who feels drawn to a career in STEM, but loves to be artisticly creative too?
"My hobby is art; both freehand and digital drawing. Being interested in a career in a STEM industry doesn’t mean you have to give up being interested in other things. Quite the opposite, really, because engineering involves creativity.
"It requires skills from many areas and having varied interests can enable you to see solutions that others may not be able to."
Photo right: Jamie's artwork