Mr. Davis: It’s great to chat with you about your journey after St David’s. Now I understand that you decided to do an apprenticeship degree. How did this come about?
Jake: I did a week’s work experience with a company called Helical Technology just outside of Blackpool. Helical has links with the St David’s Head of DT, Martin O’Leary who arranged the work experience for me. That was in year 12. After that week, they offered me a Mechanical Engineering Apprenticeship once I finished school. This meant I could work for the company while going to college at the same time.
Mr. Davis: What was involved in the apprenticeship and how long did it last?
Jake: The apprenticeship is still ongoing as it lasts six years. The first year was in the Mechanical Engineering department in design looking at engine components. Then I did site visits, spending four to five weeks in different departments, being on the shop floor, and watching the workshop guys operating the machinery. It’s basically getting a big breadth of knowledge which is important when you are aiming for the full degree. That knowledge is almost more important than the academic side of the degree.
Mr. Davis: What skills were you learning on that journey?
Jake: While you develop the academic skills of going to Uni and studying independently, you also gain the working environment skills. I quite liked being in the working environment rather than sitting in classes all day. Being in that professional working environment and having to operate in a professional manner is something that I have learned. I developed my practical skills as well – actually working on the machine shop floor. Getting your hands dirty and gaining the knowledge from someone who’s been on the machines for ten years earns you more respect and you become more included in the team. Sometimes, people who just come in with their degrees keeping their hands clean aren’t as included in the work environment.
Mr. Davis: Do you notice when you do go into college that you have gained knowledge that your classmates don’t have access to?
Jake: Yes, one hundred percent. I recently had this conversation with the other students on the degree course who are doing British Aerospace apprenticeships. We definitely hold more knowledge due to the experience we are gaining on our apprenticeships. And it helps the Uni too – other students often seek us out when we’re given an assignment to give our input to group projects.
Mr. Davis: Is that because you have the practical knowledge, so you have the ability to apply it?
Jake: Yes, and as well as building practical knowledge it’s the strong work ethic that you have to maintain when studying for a degree and working at the same time.
Mr. Davis: What does your week look like in regard to that work ethic?
Jake: When I first started college, I went to night classes and worked 7.30am – 5pm Monday to Thursday. Then Thursday night and Friday afternoon, I would also have classes in college. That was for three years and now I’m in Uni the workload is heavier so I am in Uni all day Thursday and I still work the rest of the week.
Mr. Davis: At the end of your apprenticeship what will have to your name?
Jake: With the degree apprenticeship you get the standard Mechanical Engineering degree but then since you have also completed the apprenticeship, you also get the recognition that you have done that too (some extra letters after your name) and employers look for this.
Mr. Davis: Do you think you’ll stay with your current employer or move onto something else?
Jake: I think I’ll stay. It’s a good place to work and I like the people I work with. I think that’s a really important factor and often underrated – you have to enjoy working with your colleagues.
Mr. Davis: What would you say is the best experience you’ve had while you have been on this journey of an apprenticeship and doing the degree alongside it?
Jake: I suppose it’s the experience and the people you meet going up the ranks and chatting to those who have been in the engineering business for 30 years. You can learn so much. It adds to my knowledge and they get to pass on theirs.
Mr. Davis: What advice would you give to our 6th form and maybe also our year 11s who are deciding what A levels they want to take and where they might want to be in a few years’ time?
Jake: I would say evaluate all your options. Look at your typical degree which is 3-4 years depending on whether you do the year in industry or look at the apprenticeship degree which is 6 years. Once you know all the options, then evaluate which is going to work best for you. Personally, if there is a degree apprenticeship available then that is what I would choose. Especially after everything I have experienced. That’s my personal opinion though and it suits me. There are other apprenticeship degrees available as well as Mechanical Engineering. There’s Electrical Engineering, Management, Civil Engineering, and Quality. There are even Police degree apprenticeships, so you are not limited.
Mr. Davis: Do you still remember the good times at St David’s and do you have a fond memory of being here?
Jake: I went on a skiing trip to Italy with Mr. Demery and my friends. It was my first trip away from home and I loved it. We had so much fun.
Mr. Davis: Do you feel your journey through St David’s has set you up for who you are now?
Jake: Absolutely. Especially when I chose to do BTEC Level 3 in the 6th form. The controlled assessment work that I did at St David's prepared me fantastically for my degree apprenticeship. It’s not a massive stress in May and June – it’s a consistent work ethic with projects and ongoing assessments that is a more realistic way of working for your future career.
Mr. Davis: Thank you, Jake. You’ve really shed a light on your journey post-St David’s and the fantastic opportunities that a degree apprenticeship can give you, especially for those pupils who prefer to work as you say in a consistent way with a positive work ethic.