Brecon – degree apprenticeship update

Brecon became one of our Rochester Bridge Trust Arkwright Engineering Scholars in 2016. He’s now part-way through his defence weapons degree apprenticeship, and shares an update with us here.

My degree apprenticeship began in 2018, and one of the stand-out experiences from that first year was the large range of opportunities I encountered. These included visiting a range of sites, meeting a diverse amount of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and enjoying many hands-on opportunities at some of the most advanced engineering facilities in the defence industry.

This means my main piece of advice to anyone going to university or during a degree apprenticeship is to take up as many opportunities as possible! There are so many students across the country following similar courses and in a competitive industry it is vital to stand out from the crowd with skills developed from extracurricular activities. I personally found that attending a range of specialist courses and lectures with SMEs from around the world – including America, the Netherlands and Canada, as well as some that were United Nations-specific – really helped me to develop my understanding of the industry. Such opportunities are now even more readily available with video conferencing.

In 2019, my second year began with a relocation from college at Weston-Super-Mare to university in Bristol. I also began a day release into industry, followed by a six-month placement working with a project team four days a week.

It was a lot to take in at first as I worked on finding a good balance between work, university, and my NVQ Level 4 for additional engineering skills. After spending some time adjusting I realised that asking for advice was the best thing I could do. I made the most of the engineers I was working with, questioning them about their own experiences and time management. There’s no shame in asking questions, it’s how we learn.

One of the best bits of feedback I received was from an OME (Who had recently graduated with a masters degree in mechanical engineering) who advised me to set targets for each placement, asking for specific work goals and access to the appropriate teams to achieve them.

Since Covid-19 arrived my work has continued mostly as normal. There was some adjustment in getting used to working in an office at reduced capacity and then working from home, but as our organisation already had regular home working the processes were there and it was a smooth transition.

I moved teams early in the pandemic, to a placement that allowed me to focus on report writing and analysis of trial data. Changing teams at this time was difficult because the lack of face-to-face sessions with my colleagues made it difficult to pick up work. However I soon made it my mission to hunt down tasks, which led to some brilliant projects and meant I was included in firing range days and lab visits. Working alongside an experienced trials manager, I was able to significantly develop my skills in this area.

My latest placement has moved me to Portsmouth, where I am spending six months working with the Royal Navy. It’s an interesting change because it has taken me from working with the supplier to the operating duty holder.

I’m really enjoying everything about my course and hope my experience is helpful for others considering taking on a degree apprenticeship.

Read about the start of Brecon’s time as a Rochester Bridge Trust Arkwright Engineering Scholar here.

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