'During my apprenticeship, every week was different'

An apprenticeship provided Emma Roberts with a great route to her dream engineering degree. She tells her story as part of the #InspiringApprentices campaign

Emma Roberts

inspiring apprentices vocational education training FE college

I am 25, and I completed my degree level apprenticeship in electrical engineering with Fairfield Control Systems in 2017. Fairfield Control Systems design, build and commission industrial control systems and we have worked on projects such as Tower Bridge, Falkirk Wheel and Wimbledon Centre Court Roof.

I first heard of apprenticeships whilst at school, but it wasn’t until college that I realised you could do a degree through an apprenticeship. I always wanted to complete a degree in engineering and thought my only option was to do this the traditional way. I then looked into the Fairfield’s apprenticeship opportunity and researched the company and decided it would be an amazing opportunity. So I completed an application form and sent my CV, I was then invited for an interview. 

More on this: 'I didn't believe the apprenticeship stereotypes'

Background: Degree apprenticeships: What you need to know

Other news: Minister backs #InspiringApprentices campaign 

'No reason to be worried'

When I first signed up for my apprenticeship I was very nervous as I didn’t know what I would be getting up to on a day-to-day basis and was worried I wouldn’t know anything they needed me to. I had absolutely no reason to be worried as my employer didn’t expect me to know everything, they just expected me to apply myself have a good work ethic and be willing to learn.

During my apprenticeship, every week was different for me due to the nature of my work. I could be at a different site on a different project every week. Our company also works in many different sectors so one week I could be working on a leisure ride and the next I could be at a steelworks. Typically, I had one day at college/university and four days working, although sometimes there was some weekend work involved. As an apprentice I was treated very much like any other full time employee at the company I had a contract of employment, the same holiday allowance and was also entitled to a bonus and sick pay.

I now have a full time position with the company as an applications engineer, it is my responsibility to talk to customers to find out their requirements. I then go away and engineer a solution, produce a technical proposal and produce cost estimates for the work. My favourite part of my job is getting to work on so many iconic projects and being able to see all the different engineering applications out there.

'Kick-starting my career'

My friends and family were all very supportive of me doing an apprenticeship and could see how much it would help me to kick-start my career. A few of my friends decided to take other routes and soon realised an apprenticeship would have been more beneficial to them. Whilst at university I was often in class with full time students and it was surprising how many of them said they wished they had done an apprenticeship if they had known about them.

I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship to young people as they have so many great benefits, you get the opportunity to earn while you learn and you can get a recognised qualification without the student debt. My advice to anyone is to look at all your options and decide what is best for you, what’s best for one person might not necessarily be right for you. You should always look into something before you make a decision and if those around you aren’t sure then get them involved so they can see what it’s all about.

I don’t know where I would be today without completing my apprenticeship, it has given me so many opportunities and best of all it allowed me to get a degree whilst gaining 5 years work experience. It also allowed me to save for and buy my first home which has set me up for life.

Emma Roberts, completed a degree level apprenticeship in electrical engineering. Her story is part of the Tes #InspiringApprentices campaign 

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Emma Roberts

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