Are you considering an apprenticeship? Meet Jonathan, Chris and Lewis who joined British Engines Group company, BEL Valves, as apprentices and went onto receive a first class honours degree in Mechanical Engineering at Northumbria University.
Here’s how they did it…
Why did you apply for an apprenticeship at BEL Valves?
Lewis: I live locally and had always heard good things about BEL Valves. My interest in engineering started from a young age and an apprenticeship was a good way to get into it. BEL Valves came to my school as part of a mock interview day, after which I was invited for a tour of the factory. From that point I knew I wanted to work here.
How did you work your way up to degree level?
Jonathan: On top of our normal apprenticeship we completed a Level 3 NVQ in Mechanical Manufacturing Engineering (CNC Machining), Level 3 BTEC in Manufacturing Engineering and a Level 4 HNC in General Engineering, accredited by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). We all enjoyed learning and wanted to continue studying. In our quarterly employee reviews we discussed the prospect of studying a degree. When the opportunity came, we knew it was not one to miss
What did the course involve?
Jonathan: Modules over the four years ranged from fluid dynamics and advanced structural systems to finite element analysis. Initially we were classroom based, attending lectures with regular contact from course leaders, but this stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic and the rest of the course was completed remotely. As a result this made it very difficult but with the support from BEL Valves we achieved the grade we wanted.
How did you balance studying and working full time?
Chris: Our degree was part-time which meant we had a day release from BEL Valves. I spent most of my weekends in the library, or I studied after work. Prioritising my workload really helped and the support from everyone at BEL Valves was great. We could take short notice holidays around exam periods to revise together. The flexibility from work made things a lot easier for revision.
Have you been able to put the degree into practice in your role?
Lewis: Since studying computation fluid dynamics (CFD) at university, we have a better understanding which is helping us to interpret CFD analysis reports on our valves to adapt the designs to meet client requirements.
What skills did you learn at university?
Chris: The skills we learnt at university were quite broad. Studying analytical modules has helped with the technical side of my role. University has also helped me improve my project management skills which I have already put into practice.
What advice would you give someone considering an apprenticeship?
Jonathan: Go for it! It’s a great stepping stone to further your education and experience whilst working full time. I’m not sure if I would have gone to university if it wasn’t through completing my apprenticeship.
The engineers plan to become incorporated engineers (IEng) and aim to be chartered (CEng) in the future. For now, they are taking a well-deserved break from studying. We wish them all the best in the future.