We chat to Lois Harris who is currently completing her apprenticeship with Bisley who gives advice on anyone looking to start an apprenticeship.
Who are you, who do you work for, and what is your role now?
My name is Lois Harris; I’m currently completing my engineering apprenticeship with Bisley. We are Europe’s leading manufacturer of steel storage, and aim to provide products that meet the challenges of today and help you plan for tomorrow. At the moment, my role within the company is focussed on becoming a ‘lock expert’. The locking solutions we provide with our furniture is becoming more sophisticated and complex, and as a result the company needs someone who can gather the key information required, and ensure we can provide a solution which exceeds the customer’s expectations.
- Why did you opt for the Apprenticeship route and how did you get into it?
After completing my GCSEs, I began looking for apprenticeships as the next stage in my education, and to provide me with the opportunity of a job. I was keen to get practical experience as well as continuing with my academic qualifications, therefore an apprenticeship seemed to offer the perfect balance. I was sceptical about going to college and university as many people find it difficult to get a job afterwards, and are in a considerable amount of debt. I applied for various apprenticeships within the industry, however, after visiting the company for an interview, I felt it would be a great place to start my career.
- What do you cover in your apprenticeship?
My apprenticeship is split into three main sections; the first is my academic qualifications. Initially, I completed two years of BTEC Level 3 in Engineering, and I am now in my second year of my HNC (Higher National Certificate). In addition to this, I have completed vocational qualifications which started with NVQ Level 2. I am currently working to complete my NVQ Level 3 in Engineering Technical Support. Finally, during my apprenticeship I am trying to learn/understand how the company works. This includes understanding how the various machines and processes work within the company, as well as the function of the different departments.
- How is your training organised and how does it support your development?
I currently attended a training school (Newport and District Group Training Association) once a week to complete my academic qualification. This consists of various lessons such as Engineering Project, Health and Safety and Further Mechanical Principles. My other qualifications are completed based on the tasks I am given by the company. It supports me in my development as I am given the opportunity to learn both the theory and the practical side of how the industry works. It gives me a better understanding of how large companies actually operate and the challenges that are faced on a day-to-day basis.
- What do you feel are the main advantages of an apprenticeship? (against going to full time college)
The main advantage of an apprenticeship is definitely getting the industry experience. Not only in terms of being able to see the practical applications of the theory I am learning, but also to be able to speak to other employees who have studied and qualified in the same field. Currently working within the design department, I am lucky to be surrounded by people who come from mechanical engineering or product design backgrounds. They can give me help and support on difficult tasks, and can help to ensure I learn from mistakes which have been made in the past. The apprenticeship has also helped in my personal development; gaining more confidence.
- What challenges have you faced during your time as an apprentice?
The major challenge faced during the apprenticeship is time management. It can be difficult to hold a full-time job, and meet all of the deadlines set for the completion of college assignments. You need to ensure you stay organised, and make sure you don’t leave work into the last minute. It can also be challenging to understand some of the more complex processes and machines that we have within the factory. It’s important to have the confidence to ask questions. Everyone is more than willing to help, so use their experiences to help your learning.
- What attracted you to this industry?
Going through school, I always enjoyed Maths, Science and Product Design subjects. Engineering seemed the perfect way to combine these skills and the best industry to start my career. I like finding out how things work, and how different products are designed. I was also attracted to the versatility of work that this industry could offer. You can be faced with different challenges and tasks each day, which means the work is always interesting. In addition, Engineering is typically thought of as being a very male dominated industry so I enjoy the challenge of becoming successful as a female engineer!
- What advice would you give to anyone considering an apprenticeship?
I would definitely advise anyone to seriously consider applying for an apprenticeship. It is a great opportunity to continue with your education, whilst also gaining practical work experience. It can be challenging to balance college work with a job, but it’s worthwhile as you can earn while you learn. An apprenticeship can also help with your personal development, you learn the importance of effective communication and how to work effectively within a team. An apprenticeship gives you a wide range of skills to take forward into your career.