Today (11 February) is day five of National Apprenticeships week and Women in Science Day. We caught up with Elin Esnard, a third year Technical Apprentice with Leonardo UK.

What made you want to pursue a career in the sector and an apprenticeship?

When I went to sixth form, I started to underperform due to the stress of A-Levels. I had also just been formally diagnosed as having dyslexia and was still trying to find out how I learn best and identifying my coping mechanisms. During the summer of my first year at sixth form, I completed a week’s work experience at Leonardo, I loved it and the whole week inspired me.

I went back to college for second year but did not do very well on results day. I felt like I had completely ruined my future, and all my chances of ever working for a company as prestigious as Leonardo. Following college, I didn’t go to university and instead worked full-time for two years as waitress, gymnastics coach and a showroom assistant.

I still dreamt of becoming an engineer with no idea of how I was going to do it. I couldn’t go back to full time education as I was already earning, and I didn’t think it would suit my learning style. So, I investigated apprenticeships, and they almost seemed too good to be true, it was the perfect solution to start my career and achieve my dream job as an engineer.

I had little self-confidence at the time I applied, and my mental health was so bad it started affecting my physical health. I genuinely believed at the time I was a failure, and I would not even get an interview. However, I continued with the process, as I felt I had nothing to lose… as you can probably tell… I GOT THE JOB!

What is your day-to-day role like?

During my time at Leonardo, I have been given the opportunity to work in a variety of different functions on a few different projects however working on Praetorian DASS (Defensive Aids Sub-System) has definitely been the most interesting, and my favorite project.

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

The best thing about my apprenticeship is the fact that I get to apply what I learn in college to my everyday job. I find it easier to learn things whilst I’m doing them, so the structure of the apprenticeship is really tailored to suit my strengths. I am very proud to have received the Leonardo award for UK Apprentice of the Year during my second year.

One thing that surprised me on the apprenticeship is how everyone I have met is so genuinely happy to help with my learning. Whether I’m completing placement work for college assignments, or struggling with a new job concept or idea, everyone is so willing to share their knowledge and support me in my learning.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship to people looking to make a first step in their career?

I 100% recommend an apprenticeship to anyone who wants to start a career (especially in engineering) I have done GCSEs and A-levels, but university wasn’t for me. My apprenticeship allows me to learn, gain qualifications that I can apply directly in a real-life working environment, and, if that wasn’t enough, get paid a wage to do it! It suits my learning style and allows me to play to my strengths which I believe is the key to success. I wish someone had spoken to me about apprenticeships sooner, and I would definitely recommend one.

What advice would you give to someone interested in an apprenticeship?

If you were looking at applying to an apprenticeship my biggest piece of advice is to stop worrying about what people think, don’t dwell on your low points, be yourself and show off your best qualities!

Oh, and look after yourself! Burning yourself out isn’t fun. This means caring for your mental health and your physical health listen to your body, listen to your mind and put yourself at the top of your priority list and then you will be able to grasp opportunities to the fullest when they come along.