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Greg Nicholls - Engineering apprenticeship - Apprenticeships

Which company did you do your apprenticeship with?

Rolls Royce Aero-Engines Ltd., Derby

Why did you choose to become an apprentice? How long was your apprenticeship?

My father was a licensed aircraft engineer and I had always been interested in the practical side of engineering. I could strip a motorcycle engine, change the pistons and rings, by the time I was 17. As I lived in the Midlands at the time, a Rolls Royce apprenticeship seemed a logical choice if I could gain such an apprenticeship. The apprenticeship was five years in length and apart from day release at college to gain my Level 3 National Certificate, and my Level 4 Higher National Certificate, I spent six weeks at a time in a number of different factory sites of Rolls Royce, including mounting the engines ready for the test deds where all engines were run up and tested, prior to fitting to aircraft. I worked as a Standards Engineer for a year after my apprenticeship before taking two years out to study for a BSc [Hons] in Production Engineering.

What were the main things that you learnt?

Practical machining skills along with the requirement for completing all necessary documentation in industry, plus a variety of practical skills from engine building to the various machine shops to the investment casting factory plus many other departments.

Where did you progress to after your apprenticeship ended? How did that lead you to be working at the College now?

After my apprenticeship plus a year, and after my degree, I then worked as a Project Engineer for a year, then was appointed a Senior Design and Planning Engineer for Metal Box Ltd. at one of their factory sites. I changed companies and became a Project Engineering Manager, then Production Manager at British American Tobacco, Liverpool followed by Production Engineering Manager at GEC Engineering Ltd. In Lancashire. Along the way I even became a Chartered Engineer. After that, I wanted to progress to teaching courses for industry but became side-tracked into teaching in colleges, to transfer my skills to young engineers of the future.

How does your role involve apprenticeships now?

I teach local engineering company apprentices, both theoretical subjects and machine workshop practice, at Level 2, and I teach apprentices, of varying ages, theoretical Level 3 subjects. I also spend time with full-time students discussing why apprenticeships would be a very good route forward for their futures, the benefits both to them and the country as well.

Would you recommend young people to consider an apprenticeship?

Always. I’m a great believer in apprenticeships and would always recommend becoming an Engineering apprentice as mine has been of great benefit to me in my varied career. Also, why not earn as you learn. Always take the opportunities to gain any qualification, all the way even to becoming a graduate apprentice, for which companies are always looking for qualified engineers of the future.

As you can see, my initial start as an engineering apprentice has led me to a career working for a wide variety of companies. With the future of engineering and technology becoming even more relevant today, with a wide variety of opportunities, why would you not want to become an engineering apprentice!

Inspired? Take a look at our Engineering apprenticeships page today.

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