Case Study: Jack Haworth
“Once I actually understood engineering … I thought it’s like a perfect mix of practicality and theory. What you are learning, you can see it applied to real life applications.”
A different route into engineering
Jack always wanted to become electrician, an engineer and to have a degree. His route into engineering is very different than the majority of other graduates and he is passionate about raising awareness of different routes into engineering.
During 6th form Jack studied English literature, history and business however and soon realised that that wasn’t working for him. As soon as he finished school he applied for an electrical engineering apprenticeship at TSP Engineering in Workington.
Jack did a Higher National Certificate (HNC) and a Higher National Diploma (HND) in electrical and electronic engineering, and then a degree in electrical plant engineering.
“I wanted to get involved in this podcast and try to inspire people and make people more aware of the different routes that you can take to become an engineer and the different careers within engineering.”
From this point onwards he applied to the Sellafield graduate scheme where according to him opportunities were endless.
“It’s probably like the best thing I could have done because I’ve worked on the tools and I’ve worked on the things that other people have designed, and then you kind of like get an idea of, say, like how things could be done better.”
His engineering apprenticeship made him observant and having hands-on experience of equipment allows him to think about how to make components more accessible, easier to work on or fix. With 8 years of hands-on experience Jack hopes that he will soon become a chartered engineer.
Robots on Extreme environments
Jack is currently working for the Robotics and Extreme Environments Lab run by the University of Manchester in collaboration with Sellafield. He collaborates with his colleagues designing robots that can work in extreme environments that are dangerous for humans. He is particular proud of two of these robots: Carma and Mirrax.
Carma has been designed to inspect outdoors areas for radiation and its currently being fitted with a GPS sensor to map the environment around. This is based on a LIDAR sensor as Jack explains:
“A LIDAR sensor is method for measuring distances by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring their reflection with the sensor and so the time differences in the returned laser allows to build up a map of the environment… so this this robot is deployed around legacy areas of Sellafield to be able to declassify them so that you know that the clear of radiation”.
Mirrax is a 3 legged autonomous robot which runs on a little roller wheels and it only 150 mm wide so it can squeeze in small areas of nuclear cells which are highly radioactive. Mirax also used LIDAR sensors to map its surroundings:
“It’s got a middle arm that lifts up and on this arm is a LIDAR sensor and a gamma radiation sensor and this can also tilt, so this allows the 2D Lidar to build up a 3D map of the environment so that we can work towards knowing exactly what’s in there and help to navigate the robot around the cell… It’s also picking up the radiation hotspots within the cell to then end with, uh, hopefully decommissioning the cell after this.”
To help develop these robots, Jack learned 3D-CAD and electronics:
There are a lot of electronics and stuff that needs to get in there, so I’ve been designing and 3D printing components to hold things in place and building stuff up so that the robot is more robust.
Working on a nuclear site
Jack works at Sellafield which is one of the few places in the country that handles nuclear waste. The general public still has a very apprehensive perception of nuclear energy and the safety of nuclear sites. According to Jack once you learn the science and you understand the safety protocols you actually feel safe.
“If you follow the rules, which there is a lot of rules and there’s a lot of safety in place, which sometimes people could say it’s maybe a bit over the top, but you can understand why it’s there and the purpose of it. Sometimes a lot more difficult to actually get things done, but I really enjoy it!”
Engineering skillsets and following dreams
Jack believes that in addition to having hands-on experience of equipment, engineers should be good team players as no one knows everything:
“Always look at how you can make things better or better ways of doing stuff… I think you’ve got to be good at solving problems and sometimes to solve problems, you’ve got a be creative. You’ve got to be able to think outside the box, but also be able to apply engineering theories to your problems”
Jack is also a strong advocate about different routes into engineering such as apprenticeships.
“When I started my apprenticeship, there was people starting it who were 24 years old. You’re never too late to change and do what you want to do, like what’s going to make you happy… People put a lot of pressure on themselves thinking like, oh, I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do or what people expect me to do. Try and be open to all things like I was.”
Case Study: Greg Bowie
Apprenticeship into engineering
Greg remembers having a curious mind as a young child. He loved looking at things to see how they work, which drove his parents mad! At school he was good at maths and science, and joined the Royal Air Force Air Cadets. He was never interested in going to university, so left school at 16 and took up an apprenticeship at a tool moulding company.
“I was never sort of an academic kind of person, and I find that for me a much more valuable way of learning is getting your hands stuck in, working out how things work …”
Healing broken bones
Greg is currently a manufacturing engineer at Invibio, a company working on biomaterials for medical applications. He uses his hands-on skills and creativity to create and test trauma plates, which are used to hold broken pieces of bone together and allow them to heal. When someone suffers a nasty fracture, they might have one of Invibio’s plates surgically implanted to help stabilise the injury while the bone grows back.
Usually trauma plates are made of metals such as titanium or steel. However, Greg and his team are developing a new material which combines carbon fibres thinner than human hair and plastics.
Greg says the way the material is engineered is much closer to the natural structure of bone, which can lead to good biocompatibility so the plates will encourage broken bones to heal faster. But there are other advantages too:
“When we have these carbon fibre reenforced plastic plates another benefit is that they can X-ray through the plate and see how that bone is developing and healing.”
Learning from failures
When starting his journey into engineering as an apprentice, Greg became resilient by learning from his mistakes. One of his favourites quotes is, “You can’t let your failures define you. You have to let your failures teach you” (Barack Obama).
Being resilient and patient helps him better to understand the best ratio of carbon fibres to plastic and how the materials should be layered together.
“We’ve got some understanding [of] how the material may work, but we need to make it, we need to test, it we need to see if it fails, how it fails, and [work out] what we need to change.”
In particular Greg and his colleagues need to understand how much carbon fibre reinforced plastic plates bend without breaking (this is called flexural strength), and how tightly screws can be inserted through the material. It goes without saying how important it is to study these properties before a plate goes inside a human body.
Under the sea and other medical applications
Carbon fibre reinforced plastics have become common engineering materials, used everywhere from car components to tennis racquets. They’re also used in pipes for deep sea applications. Being able to tailor the strength and flexibility of the material, they can be ideal for encasing pipes which will have to sit on the seabed without being crushed by the high pressures.
Invibio is also developing other materials for medical applications. For example, they 3D print porous (sponge-like) plastic materials as spinal cages. This allows bone to grow into the implant as well as growing around it.
Gregs loves that his engineering work, and the biomaterials and products he helps to develop, make a difference and improve people’s lives.
“That is what I love about where I work now, it’s an interesting field to be in.”
Going back in time
Greg had a superpower he would like to be able to time travel. Not necessarily into the future: to go back in time, to see how engineers and inventors developed the things they did. That said, he is curious about where biomaterials technology is going to be in 10 years’ time.
“How many bones can we fix in the human body with these plates? Because it not necessarily always suitable for all the applications giving the existing manufacturing process that we use …”
creative, patient, resilient
Case Study: Christopher Robinson
Christopher works as an electronics technician with the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source centre for research.
Tinkering and learning on the job
From a young age, he has been tinkering with different objects learning more about how they work and how they are put together. Christopher finished his A-Levels before he decided to apply for an apprenticeship with STFC. He really enjoyed the practical side of things at school and found that an apprenticeship meant he could carry on developing his hand-on skills and learn from projects.
At STFC I gained invaluable knowledge due to our fantastic apprenticeship scheme
Doing an apprenticeship also meant that he was being paid at the same time he gained qualifications on the job. Another highlight of his apprenticeship was the opportunity to travel abroad:
I was offered the chance to travel to Geneva in Switzerland for 7 weeks to work at CERN, an opportunity that saw me develop and gain many useful skills and personal achievements at the largest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world!
Christopher loves his job. According to him being an electronics technician means that he is imaginative when he designs and builds electronics circuits which are used in parts of the particle accelerators at ISIS. Christopher is also self-motivated and enjoys the variety of work he does:
Because of the nature of it no two jobs are the same. Each job requires a unique method in order to complete it.
He is also patient as he finds faults and repairs equipment when it fails.
Christopher also enjoys that his work pattern is flexible. This means that there is an opportunity to do some overtime to earn more money, change his working days or simply being on call.
Using knowledge and expertise to help others
Recently, Christopher was really proud to be able to get involved in an important project:
“I have recently been heavily involved in the ventilator challenge at Penlon, repairing and testing ventilators for the Covid-19 outbreak.”
Christopher is so passionated about engineering that during his free time he find engineering related activities to do. He is currently working on a vintage motorcycle and is very excited about the final product.
imaginative, patient, self-motivated
Case Study: Mika Shearwood
Mika is a Software Engineering Apprentice with the STFC.
Route into software engineering apprentice.
Mika studied maths, further maths and physics at A Level and they knew that university wasn’t the right pathway for them. Mika decided to take a gap year to gain work experience and save money to prepare for the future. During their gap year, they have applied to lots of apprenticeships before being successful at securing a STFC placement.
“I knew for a long time that I wanted to be an apprentice instead of going to university, so I spent a gap year getting work experience “
The many roles of software engineers
Every day is different for a software engineer. Sometimes they are writing code, talking to databases, fixing websites and more. These are the types of task that Mika does during their apprentice: learning bits of everything. Mika also gets opportunities to deliver talks to the public about coding or being an apprentice:
“I do lots of things, work with lots of lovely people, and there’s always lots of talks, events and news to join in on. With all the stuff going on the word I’d use is ‘exciting’. It creates so many opportunities for me to take if I want to! “
Creativity is important
Mika believes that creativity is an important skill for their apprenticeship:
“I am a creative person and I am able to apply this in a lot of ways to my work: designing websites and software for others to use, and my personal favourite of writing and hosting a virtual Python workshop for work experience students”
A passion for media
Mika takes their creativity beyond work and into a lot of hobbies: music and video-making are two of Mika’s favourite hobbies and they can be mixed together for musical theatre which Mika loves to be involved with!
On top of all of these hobbies, Mika still has time for friends and loves to play video games with them.
Software Engineering Apprentice
creative, organised, self-motivated
Apprenticeship, Further Mathematics, GCSEs, Mathematics, Physics
Case Study: William Pilcher
William is the deputy IT Service Delivery Manager for the Particle Physics Department at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
The importance of apprenticeships
William developed many of his IT knowledge through a one year apprenticeship for STFC. This meant that he could study in college whilst gaining hands on experience at the Rutherford Appleton labs. This gave him great skills and knowledge of this fast paced workplace.
After his apprenticeship, William applied to a full time position with the Particle Physics Department (PPD) and was successful!
“I was ever so grateful for the opportunity presented to me through my apprenticeship, and it’s great to see that there’s a renewed focus on similar pathways for younger versions of me!“
What IT service delivery managers do.
William is responsible for key central management platforms. These are things like Windows/Mac support, anti-virus software and printing solutions. His ideas are shared at staff meetings where everyone can work together. Here they share more ideas and improve plans to support staff across all STFC sites.
“While it’s easy to describe my IT job as “being adept at Googling problems, and even better at switching things off and on again”, there’s a great deal of depth to my day-to-day tasks! “
What does William love about his job?
William loves the wide variety that his work has because it keeps things interesting and exciting! Sometimes he has a large workload and it can feel difficult having a lot of things to do at once. But, it is all worthwhile to get to meet staff from all around the department. He loves to hear what they are up to and about the effects that his work is having.
“Working in such a friendly, open environment is the key benefit to me – if ever there is a quiet moment in my work, I know I can go and speak to colleagues to hear what exciting projects they’re pursuing.”
He has worked in the PPD computing group for five years helping with a variety of projects. He has helped with masterclass open days, introducing computer software and supporting colleagues working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Competitive sports and socialising
Outside of working hours William likes to stay active. He takes part in different competitive sports but enjoys weightlifting and long distance running the most. He believes that having a good social life is very important. Whether that be going to music events with his friends or hiking and meeting new people.
Deputy IT Service Delivery Manager
organised, patient, resilient
Case Study: Ellie Gangel
Ellie did her GCSEs at Longbenton, and stayed on for A-levels in Maths, Business, IT and Psychology. At the time she didn’t have strong ideas about where she was headed, and for the most part pursued the subjects she’d done best in. She chose IT because it’s a broad skill, and she thought it’d be useful to have.
After Longbenton she moved to Newcastle College for a Level 3 Vocational qualification in Business, but after a year she heard about the apprenticeship programme offered by Accenture.
You never really think there are good apprenticeships out there, but we’re college-funded, university degree funded, we still get paid at the same time. It’s a really good company to work for.
At Accenture, she’s working on a project for HMRC. Her team gets a design sent to them, then they code a system which generates tax codes and national insurance systems. As an apprentice, she draws on support from her manager and her manager in turn, but also on a ‘buddy’ — a more experienced programmer who can help out as problems crop up day-to-day. It’s clearly a supportive environment.
It’s the problem solving which makes me enjoy working with the taxes.
After her apprenticeship, Ellie wants to stay with Accenture, progressing within the company. She’s particularly interested in their work with the UK healthcare sector.
Apprentice Software Developer, Accenture
attention to detail, loyalty, problem-solving, resilience
A-Levels, Apprenticeship, Vocational
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