Apprenticeships are a great way to bridge the skills gap. Miguel Millan discusses his experience.
Reading time: 3 minutes
Engineering is a developing industry, with new skills and processes constantly being established. The same is true for talent in the sector, with more businesses opting to hire apprentices and then mould their skills from within the organisation.
I’ve worked as an apprentice for more than four years. My current role is as an apprentice design engineer, which means that I support the design team by drafting engineering diagrammes for new components that we are producing for our clients.
Normally, I shadow the more experienced members of the team and help them with their projects.
The team will work with the client to establish the design concept, whether it be for small components or the entire finished product. I then work on drafting the design ready for production.
Over the years, my skills have improved significantly, and I am now beginning to have more design responsibilities and have even had a few projects of my own to work on.
Because the engineering sector is so varied, I feel that many young people don’t understand what opportunities the industry, and particularly apprenticeships, can provide
Most of the work that I carry out uses 3D CAD which, as any engineer will know, is a powerful and really useful piece of design software.
The great thing about working with CAD is that it has numerous ways to do the same thing, so it feels like with every design I am learning something new.
Before this role, I worked on an assembly line building pneumatic pumps and was looking to broaden my career prospects.
I initially applied for a different role at the company, however from my application the management team recognised that I had experience with technical drawing and offered me a place in the design team.
What attracted me to start an apprenticeship is that, because it is a small team, there is huge potential to grow and become an integral part of the business.
Also, the work that we carry out is typically for advanced and high-quality applications across a variety of industries, which means that the design work is incredibly varied and allows me to learn from a host of different industry sectors.
Additionally, because the work that I am doing is so hands-on and directly impacts the work that we do with customers, I am developing my skills much faster than I would be if I were learning solely in a classroom environment.
There have been a number of interesting projects that I have worked on during my time here. One that stands out involved a design for a gearbox with two rotary shafts that have brushes on them.
This mechanism was for a client’s product that cleans cow udders after milking on dairy farms – it was a complex shape and one of my first ever designs.
Another project was a driving mechanism I designed for a wooden shutter blind that worked so that if one of the wooden slats is turned, they all turn together.
The mechanism can be controlled from your phone or tablet and the whole system was about the size of your index finger so required an in-depth level of detail.
The business is able to teach and instil the skills and aptitudes that will directly benefit their business and customers
The design team is always looking to challenge me and help me improve. Since I started in this role, I have developed from simply scanning in drawings to completing my own design projects.
I’m now finishing my Higher National Certificate and will soon start studying mechanical design at the University of Bournemouth.
Because the engineering sector is so varied, I feel that many young people don’t truly understand what opportunities the industry, and particularly apprenticeships, can provide.
I believe that apprenticeships provide huge benefits to both the employee and the organisation.
Not only does the apprentice have the opportunity to learn and develop new skills, all while earning a wage, but the business is able to teach and instil the skills and aptitudes that will directly benefit their business and customers.
The constant developments in the engineering and manufacturing industry mean that training the next generation of skilled engineers should be at the forefront of industry leaders’ and business owners’ minds.
Integrating apprenticeships to your staff structure is an ideal way of ensuring you have the right staff, with the right skills at the right time.
About the author
Miguel Millan is an apprentice design engineer.