My story is one that I suspect many young people will identify with as they are preparing to finish school and go out into the world of work and making their own way. At school in Nottinghamshire, I achieved decent GCSE and A-Level results. I enjoyed school but I realised pretty early on that sitting at a desk all day was not for me; I wanted a role that was more hands-on.
I had always loved aircraft and so finished my exams with a vague idea that I wanted to be involved in aviation. After finishing school, I worked in supermarkets for a year before going travelling around Australia and New Zealand. This experience was a good opportunity to spend some time thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and I came back settled on working in the aviation industry.
My first thought was to become a pilot, so I applied for the RAF. Due to imperfect sight I could not pursue this, and the fees to gain a civilian aircraft licence were prohibitively expensive, so I had to reconsider.
I completed a BTEC Level 3 Aerospace Engineering course and began to consider apprenticeships. A friend had applied for a role at security and defence firm, QinetiQ; I was quite intrigued by the firm after hearing it was inspired by the 'Q' character in the James Bond films and decided to give it a go. I was invited to partake in a test, which I passed, was invited to interview and was then offered a four year apprenticeship learning the skills necessary to be an Aeronautical Engineer.
The offer meant that I would have to move from my home in Nottinghamshire to Salisbury to take up the apprenticeship at QinetiQ's Boscombe Down site, however I jumped at the opportunity. It took a little while to adapt to my new surroundings but with 18 other apprentices in place at this site, I soon settled in.
A typical day involves learning the theory side in the morning, before moving to the aircraft hangar in the afternoon to put that theory into practice. A recent example involved removing, inspecting and refitting the engine of a Gazelle helicopter.
I'm currently in year two of four and when I finish I will have a City and Guilds Diploma and NVQ Level 3 Extended Diploma in Aeronautical Engineering.
My advice to those leaving school in the summer, who are thinking about their future careers, would be to think carefully about what you want to do with your future. Just because most of your friends may be going to University, or straight into the world of full-time work, this doesn't necessarily mean it is the right path for you.
Apprenticeships have perhaps been less fashionable and overlooked by Government over the past few years. However, for those wanting a more 'hands-on' career, they can offer a great alternative to University (although with a 9-5 day Monday to Friday, (sometimes longer), the hours may be a bit lengthier than most Uni courses. The advantage of course is that you are being paid to do it!).
QinetiQ has recently announced an increase in the apprentice intake for 2013, from 25 to 100 each year. The company, like others, is keen to encourage the next generation of British engineering talent and sees apprenticeships as a key cornerstone in this drive.
I would not like to comment on the value of some of the short term 'apprenticeships,' of six months or less that we have seen some companies publicising recently. However a four year apprenticeship, like the one I am undertaking at the moment will hopefully give me all the tools I need to develop a successful career, doing a job that I love.