GDST alumna Amelia Ellis-Baumber on her degree apprenticeship with Rolls-Royce
I joined Norwich High School in 2013 where I completed my GCSEs and A levels, leaving in 2018 to start an Engineering Degree Apprenticeship in Civil Aerospace at Rolls-Royce Plc. I am currently in my third year of the four-year course. I chose to apply for a degree apprenticeship as it enabled me to experience the best of both worlds. Whilst gaining real life work experience, I am studying for a degree. Another benefit is that I get paid to learn from professional engineers and develop my skills.
In sixth form, I was researching possible options to study mechanical engineering when I came across degree apprenticeships. At the time, this type of apprenticeship was just starting to be offered by companies so there wasn’t the number of resources available as there are today. I started by searching on the apprenticeships.gov.uk website to find out which companies offered apprenticeships and then started searching on their websites directly as not all apprenticeships appeared on the gov website, especially if the applications were not open for that year. In total I applied for four degree apprenticeships and at the same time I also applied to universities. This was because I was unsure whether I would have an apprenticeship offer before the UCAS deadline arrived but it still left me with the choice in the summer when we got our A-level results back just in case I wanted to change my mind.
“People think that an apprenticeship is for those with lower grades. This is simply not true.”
The application process varied depending on the company. They all consisted of submitting a CV, completing online assessments and then an interview day. For my Rolls-Royce application, initially a set of questions was provided, followed by online testing and then an interview day consisting of multiple interviews with subject area specialists and a group challenge. From my experience, I would suggest spending a good amount of time working on your answers to the initial questions to make sure you are able to portray the best version of yourself as well as linking this to the company’s values and principles. I would also suggest that you get someone to read over your answers. When undertaking the online tests, practise multiple times before completing the actual attempt.
There are some common misconceptions about apprenticeships. For example, people think that an apprenticeship is for those with lower grades. This is simply not true. The grades required for apprenticeships are typically lower than the equivalent university course because the application process is lengthy enough to see whether the applicant possesses the suitable skills and background knowledge to complete the apprenticeship. In addition, apprenticeships are more competitive as they have more applicants per place than most university courses.
I chose to start my apprenticeship at Rolls-Royce because of the quality of the training facilities as well as the level of support given to apprentices. For example, the Learning and Development Centre is where most apprentices will be based in first year. It has lots of classroom spaces as well as a purpose-built workshop which enables you to develop your practical skills in a dedicated space. Each apprentice is assigned an Apprentice Development Leader, who supports you and tracks your progress for the duration of your apprenticeship. There are lots of opportunities to make friends and socialise with others on apprenticeships and the graduate scheme. For example, I joined the netball club which meets weekly, and there are other such sporting clubs. Groups like the Apprentice Graduate Association organise events throughout the year where you get the chance to do fun activities outside of work.
My apprenticeship works towards the Aerospace Engineer (Degree) Standard where on completion I will have achieved a BEng (Hons) in Mechanical Engineering (Aerospace), a Level 4 Diploma in Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing and a Level 2 Diploma in Aerospace and Aviation. Along with this I will have industry specific skills and knowledge which is not available from a traditional degree.
In the first year of my apprenticeship, I spent one week at Derby University and the next week in the training workshop where I learnt foundation skills, for example welding and milling which enabled me to complete a level 2 diploma. For the remainder of my apprenticeship, one day a week is spent at university and the rest of the week is at work. I started five-month placements within the civil operations business. Each of the placements will be in different business areas which broadens my understanding and knowledge of the company. I have also had the opportunity to work on innovative future projects like the UltraFan as well as completing STEM outreach projects and events to inspire future generations into engineering.
When I finish my apprenticeship, I would like to continue to work for Rolls-Royce, ideally as a design engineer. Although we are not guaranteed a job at the end of our apprenticeship, this means we are not tied to the company for a set period after completion. This is one thing worth checking as I know some apprenticeships required you to work for their company for a set duration once you had completed your apprenticeship.
I am so pleased that I chose to do a degree apprenticeship as it has enabled me to advance my engineering knowledge (both practically and theoretically) as well as providing me with invaluable workplace skills, which I have acquired throughout my apprenticeship.