George, Nuclear Engineering Degree Apprenticeship (Electrical)

How long have you worked at AWE?
4 Years

Why did you choose AWE? – what attracted you?
AWE offers a fantastic opportunity to kick start your engineering career by providing a variety of placement roles throughout the degree apprenticeship. The chance to learn practical, hands-on skills gives you a great start and is then complemented by knowledge gained from your academic studies throughout the course preparing you for your professional career.
The 9-day working fortnight (getting every other Friday off) is a great benefit and allows flexibility especially compared to other similar opportunities. AWE offers a unique opportunity as we are the only site in the UK who carries out this mission and therefore there is a vast array of exciting positions to explore.

Why did you choose to do an apprenticeship over other career routes?
I was certain that a degree apprenticeship would be the best route for me to pursue a career in engineering. The opportunity to study towards an engineering degree whilst gaining first-hand experience is such a fantastic start to your engineering career and provides a valuable foundation for whatever direction you decide to follow further in your career.
The apprenticeship gives you a chance to take responsibility for your own development and explore different business functions before deciding upon the role you want to pursue permanently upon completion of your apprenticeship.
There are now more and more degree apprenticeships available, and I would highly recommended choosing this route as you are able to work towards earning an engineering degree while embedding yourself in company and gaining experience. An obvious benefit is not having the student debt which generally comes with studying a degree, whilst with an apprenticeship you are earning a salary and your academic fees are covered.
This was the correct choice for me as it meant that I could earn a degree, build a professional network and develop technical skills.

Tell us about your time at AWE?- What do you do?
In the first 12 months, most of the time was spent away at university as we learnt fundamentals in mechanical and electrical engineering, as well as nuclear science. When not studying we were in the AWE Skills Academy learning practical skills in both electrical and mechanical maintenance.
As we moved into the later years of the apprenticeship, the degree learning transitioned to block release, where we would spend just over a month away at university to complete a module. These were intense and challenging periods as we often had to grasp new topics quickly, complete assessment work and revise for the exam in the final week. However, being able to dedicate all our efforts to studying in these periods meant that we could fully focus on the work without distraction.
We then began to undertake engineering placements around the company, where we could get experience in different teams and projects to build up our skills range and professional network.

What’s the best thing about your job?
The freedom to get experience in other areas to help me to decide on my career direction. The company showed levels of trust in us to take ownership of our career and studies, and this relationship proved to work as we gained high results in our degree studies and are all expected to out turn into areas of our choosing having completed the apprenticeship.
Again, the unique mission and history of AWE means that there are so many projects to get involved in, all with their own challenges to tackle. Being able to get experience in these roles allowed me to see projects at different stages and then build up skills across these positions.

Why are apprenticeships important to AWE? And other organisations?
AWE’s apprentice programme has a rich heritage with many people joining as apprentices and giving decades of service to the company.
In recent years AWE has implemented degree apprenticeships to increase the skills provision of its work force by allowing staff to gain crucial experience of the company and its many processes and systems, whilst gaining valuable qualifications.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about joining an AWE apprenticeship?
Go for it!
It’s been said before but there are so many opportunities to gain experience as you begin your engineering career and work towards earning a degree. You can push for opportunities in areas which interest you which can then influence your career path beyond the apprenticeship.
In four years’ time you could have earned an engineering degree as well as having four years’ of experience working at the company – something that might have taken you up to eight years if you followed the more traditional route of first attending university and then getting a graduate job.
Think of it as a way of fast-tracking your early career by combining these years of learning with  various engineering roles around the business.