Today is day three of National Apprenticeships week and we caught up with Lilly Caskey, a Project Assurance Engineer who recently completed a four-year technical apprenticeship at Leonardo. Lilly is also a STEM ambassador and talks to school children about her experience as an apprentice and the career opportunities in Quality.

What made you want to pursue an apprenticeship?

Throughout the whole of my GCSE years at school, I did not manage stress very well, which led to exams being a massive issue. This made me realise that completing another two years of exams would not be beneficial to me, making me look a lot closer at apprenticeships.

During my five years at secondary school, I was part of the ‘gifted and talented’ program for Engineering and it was a fun subject that I loved even when there was challenges. This lead to conversations with my engineering tutor who suggested I apply for the Technical Apprenticeship at Leonardo. So, at 15 I was invited to take part in an interview day and was 100% sure I would be an Electronics Engineer designing PCB layouts. A week after the interview I was offered the job and it was the best decision I have ever made.

What is your day to day role like?

During the four years of my apprenticeship I had the opportunity to work in a number of different functions. This allowed me to get an understanding and appreciation for the struggles and work each function has to do, to result in a successful project. Without going around the different functions, I would never have ended up in the Quality Assurance department. If you would have asked 15 year old me, what quality was she would have had no idea!

Now in my job as a Project Assurance Engineer, I have meetings with different suppliers and customers allowing me to create a wide network and help aid in continuous improvement in the project. I work on different complex defects using investigation skills, like 8D problem solving, to result in complete root causes being found.

I am also a STEM ambassador, which means I get to go into different schools and talk to school children about my experience as an apprentice and get more young people thinking about quality as a fun and exciting career path.

What interesting projects have you worked on during your apprenticeship?

Since I have been in the Quality department I have worked on a number of different projects, from 20 year old repair contracts to brand new start-up projects. However, the most exciting thing I have worked on was a set of displays that was been sent back for investigation.

The 10 displays that got sent back had contamination on them and the customer wanted to know what it was to see if all the units needed replacing. This allowed me to work with external labs to get all of the samples analysed and did a full 8D investigation. This resulted in a fully complete investigation that saved Leonardo £1.2m.

What has been the best thing about your apprenticeship, has anything surprised you?

The best thing has been the amount of opportunities I have had throughout my whole apprenticeship and since leaving the scheme. I have had a chance to travel and visit different companies and Leonardo sites, which have allowed me to see the different ways of working.

I have also been able to project manage Rampaging Chariots, a STEM event Leonardo run, and this is something completely different to my normal day job but it has helped with my time management, communication and confidence.

All of these different opportunities definitely surprised me as I thought it would only be work and education but you can constantly build new skills to improve yourself.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship?

I will always recommend an apprenticeship to anyone as it gives you time to work out what career path you want to take whilst having the support network around you.

What advice would you give to someone considering an apprenticeship?

Don’t say no to opportunities that are handed to you, would be my biggest bit of advice!

When completing an apprenticeship it can be hard having to balance education on top of working full time. However, it is all of the extra opportunities that can shape what path your career will go down. Tasks such as going into schools for talks introduce you to a completely new set of skills that can be taken into everyday working life and they are invaluable.