Employed by Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), 20 year-old Briony Hall is an Advanced Engineering Management Apprentice studying with Bridgwater & Taunton College.
Why did you choose to do your apprenticeship with Bridgwater & Taunton College?
The good facilities in the workshop enable me to further my practical skills as well as learning the theory behind engineering concepts in the classroom.
What is completing an apprenticeship like?
My apprenticeship in the first year is mostly based at college and half terms have been spent doing work-related activities. Doing this has allowed me to focus on my studies initially, so I can go into my workplace with a basic understanding of my role and apply what I have learnt to tasks set at work. In the workplace I will be able to continue my learning whilst completing real world tasks and earning money too!
What has been your greatest achievement during your apprenticeship?
One of my greatest achievements was wiring a Direct- Online Starter (DOLS) for a three-phase motor. At first, we built domestic lighting circuits and intermediate lighting circuits and despite initially finding these difficult, they were easily figured out and completed. The DOLS was a big step up in terms of translating a very confusing wiring diagram to a physical circuit, with complex components and the need to learn many new skills. Previously, I had only stripped single core and twin and earth cables of their insulation, but with the DOLS I had to learn how to terminate steel wire armoured cables. This was more complex and involved more tools and equipment such as a hacksaw which had to be used gently (against how you would think). I also learnt how to wire three-phase motors using a crimping method and I managed to complete the circuit to a good standard with the help of a peer who was able to pass on their past knowledge and explain anything I did not understand.
What has been your favourite aspect of your apprenticeship?
My favourite aspect of the apprenticeship has been the opportunity to develop my practical skills along with my knowledge and applying it to a project. For my level 3 BTEC Diploma in Engineering I am project managing a group of students with our aim being to design, build, wire and code a robot that can navigate a course and fire a projectile. Completing the task is improving my leadership and communication skills along with furthering my knowledge of electrical circuits. As well as project managing I am responsible for designing and wiring a circuit suitable to power the robot through the course and fire the projectile. Despite initially finding this challenging, the progress that has been made overall has been incredible and the end result of seeing the robot hopefully complete the course will be worth it. I never thought I would be capable of doing this.
How has your apprenticeship helped to prepare you for the future?
At the moment I am studying mostly at college. Staff are always able to answer questions and help with work however, at times I am left to work things out for myself which is increasing my problem solving ability, a characteristic required for my job.
With the robot project, when designing the circuits I received support from the electrical teacher who aided me in deciding on suitable components for the circuit to maximise the robots’ performance.
What have you gained from your apprenticeship?
Along with knowledge and practical skills, I have been able to further my personal development. As a person, I think I have learnt to think for myself and independently work to better myself. A great example of this is the aforementioned robot project. This has helped me to be a more efficient planner, work in a team and be more confident in communicating with others. My ability to manage the tasks we must complete as a team and delegate them out accordingly was initially poor but with the project it is improving every day. When I begin working fulltime at my workplace I will be required to project manage, work within teams to fulfil a common goal and communicate ideas effectively.
Being at college has also taught me to self-reflect on my work to understand my strengths and weakness and alter my working method accordingly. This is mainly done in a performance review following the completion of a project such as a fabricating one or building an electrical circuit. Within the performance review I look at three achievements made during the task and also I identify three areas for improvement in the future.
What are your plans after completing your apprenticeship?
After my apprenticeship I aspire to spend time settling into my job and improve my skills in the management sector. At some point in the future I would love to continue my education at a higher level and perhaps study for a degree. Right now I am focusing on completing the qualifications I am working on at the moment to the best of my ability to open up more opportunities in the future.
What advice would you give to other students interested in studying your apprenticeship?
To anyone considering the apprenticeship I encourage them to have the confidence to apply. I had minimal engineering knowledge and skills coming into this job whereas a lot of my colleagues had some sort of previous experience, be that in a job or as a hobby. If you have the desire to be an engineer and are willing to work for it then apply because you learn the skills you will need on the apprenticeship; no one is expecting you to know everything at the beginning.