Each of our four industries has made a substantial contribution to UK prosperity, pioneered ground-breaking technologies and created high-value jobs for thousands of people in every part of the country.
Sarah Hewitt, Manufacturing Apprentice, Land and Air Defence at Thales in Belfast
Three years ago I considered going back into education to study engineering, pretty early on I hit a road block as I couldn’t find a course that worked around my job and reducing my hours wasn’t possible. A friend suggested looking into apprenticeships but I just assumed I was too old as I was 26 at the time. The more I thought about it, an apprenticeship could be the answer to the work study balance I was looking for. I did a bit of research and found so many options for apprenticeships but one stood out from the rest. I applied to Thales in early 2016 for a manufacturing apprenticeship and haven’t looked back since.
One of the biggest hurdles anyone studying engineering has is getting the right experience they need in the work place. The apprenticeship with Thales not only supported me through my Foundation degree in mechatronics but gave me great on the job experience through many different functions. I attended college one day a week and the remaining days I was in work, learning from experienced engineers. Year one of the programme enabled me to rotate through five functions, Machine shop, Electrical assembly, Mechanical assembly, Methods and Quality. This opportunity allowed me to see the business from a range of perspectives, understand each function and discover the role they play in the business. Moving into second year I was placed into the Methods department where I could focus my learning and development on a specific function. During this time I had a mentor that guided me through the programme and helped me gain the knowledge I needed to succeed in my career.
As part of the apprentice programme Thales support me in my personal development as much as my professional development. The apprentices were given the opportunity to attend a 2 week programme split across two trips to the outward bound centre in the Lake District. This course, using a range of activities such as rock climbing, raft building, canoeing and hiking helped me build relationships with the other apprentices, develop my confidence in working as a team and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone to develop in my career. These 2 weeks have been one of the highlights in my career at Thales so far.
Alongside work and study I have been able to attend some great STEM events with Thales. I was part of a team that hosted the Thales stand at two air shows in Northern Ireland. We engaged with the public, demonstrating that engineering is open to everyone. I am currently working on another STEM programme called Primary Engineers; with support from Thales we are sharing our knowledge with primary school teachers so they can bring engineering into the classroom.
I would encourage anyone to consider an apprenticeship with Thales and am glad that I chose this route into engineering rather than more traditional routes. At the end of the programme I will have a fully funded Foundation Degree in Mechatronics, three years on the job experience and a wealth of knowledge in a fascinating industry.