Apprenticeships: Why Sarah chose to study with BTC - Bridgwater & Taunton College

Advanced Engineering Technical Support Apprentice, Sarah Hughes, has gained several qualifications from her apprenticeship and has learned the practical skills that will make her highly desirable post-completion.

Sarah’s apprenticeship is a result of the successful relationship Bridgwater & Taunton College enjoys with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S). Sarah has been recognised for her hard work, winning the Tom Nevard Memorial Competition – an award presented by HRH Prince Charles. She was also chosen by her peers to be sport representative, and has been asked to represent the Civil Service in the UKAF hockey tournaments playing against teams such as the England and Wales masters.

Why did you choose Bridgwater and Taunton College to do your apprenticeship with?

The Ministry of Defence/DE&S have a contract with Bridgwater & Taunton College to supply the academic qualification and teaching required for us to complete our apprenticeship. BTC provide qualifications that are very suitable to the skills we require not just for the apprenticeship but for future employment within the MoD.

What is it like to complete an apprenticeship?

Completing an apprenticeship is highly rewarding. Not only do you get paid but they pay for all the qualifications that you require to do your job.

The schedule can be intense at times when trying to balance on the job learning as well as the academic work, particularly if the placement is busy. However, the apprenticeship is useful as you get to experience the job not just sit in a classroom for the duration, allowing you to get knowledge, skills and a real insight into the job you are trying to qualify for.

The apprenticeship has also exposed me to a lot of other opportunities and courses, including obtaining my nuclear course (NIC) and even representing the Civil Service in hockey.

What has been your proudest achievement during your apprenticeship?

One of my proudest achievements was winning the Tom Nevard Memorial Competition. I won the phase 1 hand fitting where we had to build nerf guns. It was great to put everything that I had learnt through the PEO in year one into practice and see it pay off. It also helped boost my confidence in my engineering ability, as before the apprenticeship I had no engineering experience at all. It was also great to be presented my award by The Prince of Wales.

What has been your favourite aspect of your apprenticeship?

My favourite aspect of the apprenticeship has been the hands-on components. It is not only enjoyable but helps cement everything you learn from lessons or books into place. I had done well in the hydraulics module on my HNC but in MSubs I was tasked with fitting the external hydraulics on board a submersible. This hands-on experience coupled with the great teaching at Bridgwater & Taunton College allowed me to get stuck in and expand my knowledge of those systems, as you work with the engineering drawings, the fittings and pipe benders not just the principles of how hydraulics work.

How has your apprenticeship, the staff and the pathway you’re studying helped to prepare you for your next steps?

The apprenticeship has given me all the knowledge and tools I need to progress in my career, not only academically but with experience in a variety of areas.

The staff, both at Bridgwater & Taunton College and at MoD/DE&S, have been instrumental in this. They keep in regular contact, are quick to identify issues and help resolve them and provide support every step of the way. BTC apprenticeship staff are keen to help find suitable roles for you and ensure that you can progress in your career.

What have you gained from your apprenticeship?

I have gained several qualifications from my apprenticeship including PEO level 2, BTEC level 3, NVQ level 3, ICT functional skills and HNC in Marine engineering.  This has given me the foundation of knowledge needed to start my career. With the experience and further knowledge gained through the various placements it has set me up for a very successful career within the MoD. I can apply directly from the apprenticeship for band D and Level 2 jobs within engineering and even the wider civil service. It has also enabled me to gain experience with some of the most up to date technologies and equipment available in defence.

Have you taken part in any extra-curricular activities with Bridgwater & Taunton College?

I have had the opportunity to take part in many extracurricular activities during my apprenticeship. I was chosen by my peers to be sport representative, updating my peers on events and organising a variety of sporting activities. I lead a team of apprentices in a sustainable recycling challenge –  a fun and innovative way of using recyclable materials whilst spreading the message about the importance of recycling. I have had the opportunity to mentor both my fellow peers and students of the UTC Plymouth, helping them achieve their desired goals and supporting them through challenges.

A career in STEM is a great opportunity however many children are not exposed to this early on in their lives, as part of the apprenticeship I have been able to visit schools to deliver STEM activities and try to promote the awareness and opportunities available in a STEM career as well as delivering STEM activities for Families day in the dockyard. In addition to this I have got to promote Women in engineering; Attending conferences, activity days as well as through women in engineering showcases. As previously mentioned I have been able to compete in engineering competitions which were not only great fun but a way to put all the skills you learn in to practice. I play hockey outside of work but because of the extracurricular sporting activities I had arranged and played in, I was asked to represent the Civil Service in the UKAF tournaments playing against teams such as the England and Wales masters.

What are your plans after completing your apprenticeship?

Once I complete the apprenticeship I plan to continue working for the MoD in an engineering position. I hope to obtain my full degree shortly after completing the apprenticeship in either Naval architecture, mechanical or electrical engineering. The perfect role would be one that has at least some hands-on work involved to balance out the computer work. However, eventually I would like to get to MoD main building in London where I can be involved in some great opportunities.

What advice would you give to other students interested in studying your apprenticeship?

My advice would be to be proactive as much as you can. If things are quiet or you have any issues I would advise being proactive in trying to address them or seeking out opportunities. Often there are a variety of amazing things to do or get involved with, but they will not come to you, you must look, and networking can be one of the best ways to do this.

The more you can do or get involved with the greater your skills set, and knowledge will be.


To find out more about our apprenticeships, visit our apprenticeship page.

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