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By Charlotte Rogers

Do you feel like college and university courses are constantly pushed upon you as the only choice? It might be a good and popular choice, but it’s not one that is suited to everyone. Apprenticeships give students the opportunity to learn in their chosen career or sector, without having to go through the mainstream forms of education.

An apprenticeship can allow you to build the career you want and avoid any of the cons of student life – the student debt often being the biggest disadvantage. As an apprentice engineer, you will be able to explore the world of engineering and learn hands on, whilst earning the money you want for independence.

Mechanical engineering offers a huge range of skills to learn. You can go into your place of work and learn on the job, for some people, this may be the only way they want to learn and can create fantastic opportunities for your future career in engineering.

Mechanical engineering offers a wide range of sectors
Mechanical engineering is more than meets the eye, the industry can be broken down into sub-industries and there are so many possibilities for your career, including but not limited to.
Aerospace Engineering
Automotive Engineering
Biomedical Engineering
Construction and Building Engineering
Manufacturing Engineering
Railway Engineering

Apprenticeships can be available at all different kinds of expertise level, from intermediate all the way up to degree level. There are so many possibilities for a mechanical engineer apprentice, I couldn’t even begin to list them all.

Mechanical engineers can end up working in industry, universities, government – another endless list of opportunities. There will always be advances in the technology these professionals use, so you will be doing impactful work and making a difference in the industry.

Learn your way
There are loads of different ways people learn and we don’t all learn in the same way. Some people enjoy webinars, lectures and taking notes in a class, whilst for others, this isn’t how they obtain and remember information. Others may learn better on the job, with the more hands-on experience. Whilst I’m not promising that there will be no theory work and no theoretical learning, apprenticeships do allow you to work and learn in a way that is more suited to you and your abilities.

Everyone should have the opportunity to get into a field they love, and engineering is no different. Apprenticeships can allow you to have control over what you learn and how you do it. Young people can be put off by university for many reasons, but this is another option. There is always another way, and this could be the right one for you.

These courses still take time and effort, but when given the choice to learn in your own way, people tend to be more co-operative with their learning. By working in an actual workplace, you are not only able to earn your qualifications, but you also get good industry practice. It’s a win-win.

You will have the experience employers want
When you read a job brief that specifies “1-year work experience is desired”, you have the upper hand. You have the same ability as a recent graduate, yet you have worked in a solid team of engineers. (You can gain work experience through university courses as well, but not for a long period of time)

Being able to say to employers that you have done the work, you have the qualification AND you have industry experience, shows that you have everything that they are looking for. An apprenticeship can give you a sense of job security.

Another potential bonus – after you have completed your apprenticeship, the company you work for, may even hire you as a permanent employee. And even if you decide to move on from the company, you have built some significant industry contacts for the future. It’s extremely likely that your contacts have more contacts! Utilise them and build your network as you work through your apprenticeship.

Why Mechanical engineering?
It may already be clear that an apprenticeship is the right way forward for you, but why mechanical engineering?

There is a shortage of mechanical engineers – Your skills are and always will be needed and highly valued
There are great salaries available – Graduate salaries are not necessarily higher than apprentice salaries anymore
After completing your apprenticeship there may be opportunity for further education – You can become professionally registered in your field
There is so much choice! Named above are only a few of the sub-industries that you can get involved in
You get to make an impact in the engineering community
You can learn as you earn, something a lot of students want

Where can you find these kinds of apprenticeships?
Recruitment and job fairs can be a good place to start. Even if they don’t advertise it directly, talking to employers, networking and discussing what you are looking for can lead to great opportunities. Getting out there and being proactive is a great place to start.

Quite a few employers that use E&TJ offer apprenticeships as well, so always keep an eye out. To name just a few:

Arup – Recruits around 70 apprentices a year! They are always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to transform the world’s infrastructure and built environment.
Babcock – Runs intermediate/advanced and higher-level engineering apprenticeships.
BT – Provides a variety of engineering services apprenticeships.
Rolls Royce – They provide apprenticeships for manufacturing engineering, engineering and non-destructive testing engineer degree apprenticeships (for those with A-levels) as well as advanced schemes for those with GCSEs.

Do you think a mechanical engineering apprenticeship could be for you? Or any apprenticeship for that matter? There are definitely pros and cons for everything and if you are considering this, you can click here to be re-located to the IET website, where we have useful information on different apprenticeships and the options available to you.

Engineering is available to everyone, find a sector and an apprenticeship scheme that suits you today! TheIET MyEngineers