Emma Walker Technical Engineering Apprentice in the Mechanical Engineering Dept. of the University of Bath
What is your current job?
As an apprentice I have to machine and hand fit my own tools as part of my work. I also have to take part in teaching the university students how to use machinery. We have to make sure the workshops are clean and safe for employees, students and visitors. The apprenticeship is a three-year course with time to learn about all aspects of the work from the heavy machinery, 3D printing and laser cutting using CAD, and hand fitting materials to create components.
What do you love about your job?
It is a very friendly environment, my work colleagues were very welcoming when I first started, and I’ve met so many amazing people since starting my apprenticeship. I am constantly learning all the time and there are so many aspects to engineering it makes each day different and exciting.
I love the fact that part of my job role is to make components that get used a lot by students and colleagues. It feels so satisfying to be able to see how your work makes a difference. It's not so good when you create products/components that don’t end up how they should, but you have to learn from your mistakes and try again!
It's not all practical work. I have to write reports and risk assessments, which are not much fun, and there is a lot of coursework involved in the apprenticeship. However, it is all part of the course and finishing the paperwork makes you feel very satisfied and accomplished.
Why did you choose a job in engineering?
I have always wanted to know how things work and what goes on in engines and mechanical products, so when I left school at 16 I studied motor vehicle maintenance at Trowbridge College. On my days off I did work experience at a company called Designability, where the workshop manager was my inspiration and role model. He taught me so many things about engineering and that you can accomplish anything if you want it badly enough. Knowing that I was able to weld metal, use heavy machinery and create products from scratch was completely mind blowing! His encouragement helped me to apply for the apprenticeship so now I work at the University of Bath and do my training with Bath College .
What skills and qualities do you need?
Communication skills are a big key, luckily I am a confident person, so I found it very easy to settle into my apprenticeship and create a positive relationship with the working staff in my area. I also have to talk to students and answer any questions they may have.
Some days I work in a team, sometimes on my own, so I need to be able to use my own initiative, to contribute ideas to the team and to follow orders.
Being organised is a key element in my job. When I’m creating a component I have to write down what I plan to do and then write what I actually did.
You have to be good at working to time limits and you need be able to prioritise what has to be completed first and what tasks can wait.
What advice do you have for young women interested in engineering?
Engineering is a very fulfilling career: there is nothing more satisfying than creating something that does something!!
There are so many aspects of engineering to look into, so don’t look into one area and be put off by it; look into a different type of engineering. There are software, civil, electronics, hardware and mechanical engineering to name just a few. There’s bound to be something that suits you. Don’t ever give up on what you want to do in life, it’s never going to be easy, but I guarantee it will be worth it in the end!
When you were at school, what would have helped you prepare for a career in engineering and become more employable?
Taking Design and Technology in school would have been good for me, but at the time I was more interested in science and geography.
Days where people from industry speak at schools to explain what engineering firms do and make would be useful, with sessions on what the different types of engineering disciplines are and what work is involved in them. It’s not true that all engineering is dirty and oily, a lot of engineering job roles are computer based, or set in a clean environment. School trips to an engineering company would really enlighten students about the industry, and give them a full experience of what engineering really involves.
An apprenticeship is a fantastic way to start an engineering career and work experience is great to give you an idea of what engineering is really about, for me that was the key to the start of my career.
Engineering really challenges you in all aspects of yourself; you may be doing something completely different each day which is a great experience! But no matter how challenging it may be, it’s very important never to give up on your dreams, because in the end you will feel so accomplished and rewarded!