We caught up with 2017 BTEC Engineering Student of the Year, Jack Healy, to hear how his Engineering apprenticeship with Rolls Royce is going.
So Jack, you’re currently an apprentice for Rolls Royce. How did you get into this position?
I applied online by submitting my CV and Personal statement. When I found out my application had been accepted, the next stage was to pass a number of timed online exams. I didn’t find the level of questions themselves tricky but I did found the time pressure to be more challenging. After this, I was invited for an interview, which was the final stage of the process.
For the interview, I was asked to prepare two presentations, one about myself and my achievements, and the other about my knowledge of the company and its products. I was also told there would be no electronic sources available on the day, so I took along a printed PowerPoint presentation. During the interview, I was also shown technical drawings and asked to interpret them. The day also included manual dexterity tests, which tested my ability to follow instructions.
Sounds like some tough competition. Well done for succeeding in the process and getting a position. What’s it like working for Rolls Royce?
There was a real sense of pride when I was given my polo shirt that had my name and the Rolls-Royce Plc logo next to each other. There’s things about my role I am unable to talk about because they have to be kept a secret within the company. This adds an extra level to my pride, as I am a employee within the company that has been entrusted to not reveal certain projects to the public. I also feel quite lucky to be one of the knowledgeable insiders of a global company.
When you start an apprenticeship at Rolls Royce, you are enrolled on extensive industry training that takes about nine months before you join the rest of the business, as the company like to ensure you have all the skills you’ll need in your job. I am coming to the end of my training now, and am getting ready to join my business area, Higher Manufacture Engineering, which I’m really excited about.
I bet you can’t wait to get fully into the business now your training is complete. What's a typical working day like for you?
As I mentioned just now, I am just about to finish my extensive industry training. Through this stage I have been changing sections within the company every month or so. I have covered: Fitting Maintain Mechanical Devices, Turning, Milling, CNC, Wiring and Testing Electrical Circuits, Assembling, Wiring & Testing Electrical Panels, Welding, Sheet metal, Fabrication, CAD and finally I've completed Visual Management projects. I also go to university once a week as I am also taking a Mechanical Manufacturing degree with University of Derby.
You’ve already covered a wide variety of things in such a short time. You’re still relatively new to the company and your apprenticeship, but has there been any highlights in your apprenticeship so far?
I helped some university graduates create a machine that measures the density of filters, and I also helped them to create 3D Printed air filters for the new Rolls Royce Trent engines. Getting to do real, hands-on work that you know will affect the company is pretty incredible.
And how did you get into engineering? Was it when you started your Engineering BTEC or did you know earlier than this that it was a career you wanted to pursue?
It’s been an aspiration from a fairly young age to become an engineer. My great grandfather was a Chief Weapons Engineer on a minesweeper during the Second World War, and it was always amazing hearing his stories. I think that inspired me to pursue engineering. Also helping my grandad – a computer engineer and rally car engineer – with his projects which showed me how much fun it was. I really enjoyed designing or working on something and then seeing a practical result from what I had done.
I struggled through school, but in year 10 I applied to a work experience week during the Easter half term, and the company I went to just happened to be Rolls-Royce Plc. After completing GCSEs, I went to Weston College and North Somerset Enterprise Technology Centre to focus on engineering and this helped me excel to where I am now.
Wow, a long line of engineers in your family. And how did you find your Engineering BTEC course? Is there anything you remember from it that you still apply today in your apprenticeship?
All the knowledge I gained during my BTEC course is still perfectly relevant to me today because of the vocational application it gave me. The course, for me, was a better route to get to my desired goal of a Higher Apprentice.
What one piece of advice would you give to students considering a BTEC qualification?
You get so much freedom on a BTEC course which can be a both a good and bad thing. One thing it teaches you is self-motivation to complete your work, which is really useful. I felt it gave me additional skills compared to those in my college that were doing just A-levels. When you do a BTEC, you’re not spoon fed all the answers, so you have to be a lot more proactive when it comes to researching and finding solutions. It’s been beneficial learning this at college because I was then able to carry this skill on to the workplace, which I think has been really valued by my employer.
Do you feel your BTEC helped get you to where you are now?
Definitely. It’s such a different way of teaching and learning, and I heavily benefited from this different style. It’s definitely helped make it possible for me to get to where I am now.
That’s so nice to hear. The BTEC route obviously benefitted for you, because in 2017 you were awarded BTEC Engineering Student of the Year at the BTEC Awards. What was it like to win?
It was pretty amazing for me and everyone around me – my parents and my tutor where so happy. I think my initial reaction was confusion as when I entered it I didn’t think I would be a winner. It was during a really stressful period at college, we were all finishing our work and the deadlines were close. I had also started to apply to various apprenticeships so it was an incredible thing to add to my CV.
A well deserved award! It’s great knowing that it’s recognised by employers and played a part when you were applying for an apprenticeship. So how did you find the transition from studying at College to being an apprentice in the workplace?
I’m not sure really as it just had to happen. I find my level of work stays at, or is above, the pace of my overall apprenticeship group. My self-motivation has contributed a lot as there’s no one constantly looking over my shoulder, yet you’re still expected to produce the work for the business and university. I’d say that’s a big difference from college.
It sounds to me like the transition was quite smooth for you then. Is there anything you would recommend to other students thinking of studying and purusing a career in engineering?
My personal belief is that university courses alone don’t give you enough practical knowledge of an engineering business. I’ve learnt this from my own experience, from my friends at university, and from the graduates at my company. An example of this would be that some graduates who have done four years of engineering at university didn’t have the hands on knowledge needed for a project we were all working on, such as wiring and constructing. They could tell me about the academic elements within engineering, but they needed more experience putting this knowledge into practice. Vocational knowledge is the key to getting anywhere within engineering - work experience, apprenticeships, internships and BTEC courses provide the skills needed.
An apprenticeship was clearly the best choice for you. To those out there also considering an apprenticeship, what advice would you give to them?
Do it! Make sure the course you apply for is with a stable and accredited company that can give you lots of opportunities and are keen for you to work for them. I’ll admit that as an apprentice you might feel like you miss out on some parts of the university experience, like a lot of partying, but when it comes to the weekend you have the money you’ve earned to go and do whatever takes your fancy. I feel very proud to be getting paid a good salary every month, as I know a lot of university students that are a similar age to me are in need of additional support from their savings, parents or a loan to get them through. An apprenticeship has its struggles – it might require you to move away from home like mine has, and it forces you to be really quite mature and adult. I am very happy to be contacted if people would like to find out more about apprenticeships.
It’s lovely to hear how passionate you are about apprenticeships. Do you know what’s the next thing you’ll be doing in yours? Any big projects you’re about to take on?
There are a number of large company wide projects going on at the moment which everyone has been pulled into, but that’s about as much as I can say. With most engineering apprenticeships you have to sign a secrecy act meaning you can’t disclose certains things. Get back to me in a few months and I might be able to say some more.
Okay, I’ll definitely check in with you again so you can reveal more! I know it’s a while away, but do you have any plans for what you want to do once your apprenticeship ends?
I’d like remain within the company for the first few years. Rolls-Royce invest over £100,000 into each individual apprentice, and that’s through the training alone. I’d like to stay loyal to a company that has invested so much in me – not just money, but the training, time and support I’ve had so far. I like to think that if they're willing to invest this much in me then it is likely there will be another position for me once my apprenticeship finishes. Later down the line I’d like to go on a gap year, do some travelling and see the world. Looking more long term, I’d like to make it easier for my family to live. It would be great to be able buy my dad a car one day, for example.