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Apprentice Case Study: Joshua Whitley

Josh discovered his passion for engineering after working with complex machinery in a job that he took straight from school. As well as helping him to increase his skills and his value as an employee, an apprenticeship gave Josh the opportunity to explore the different sectors within engineering, further fueling his passion and inspiring him to become a specialist in the future. We spoke to him about his journey so far, and why he recommends embarking on an apprenticeship to others.

Why did you choose an apprenticeship?

I went straight into work when I left school.  After three years, I decided I wanted to develop a skill set that would make me a more capable and valued employee. My apprenticeship is helping to give me a clear future career path as I improve my practical skills and academic knowledge, as well as enabling me to continue to gain more work experience.

Did you have a particular career in mind when you made your decision? If so, what and why?

I didn’t have a particular career in mind, but I knew I wanted to be involved with engineering. As I learn more through my apprenticeship, my career path is changing because I’m discovering exciting new areas of engineering that I’d like to pursue.

Were you always interested in a career in engineering?

To be honest, when I first left school, I had no interest in engineering! Then, in my previous job, I had an opportunity to work with complex machinery, which really sparked my interest. After discussing the opportunities available to the engineers working for that company, I decided that engineering was the right area for me to pursue.

What have you learnt at OAS?

OAS has helped to improve my basic hand skills in both mechanical and electrical assemblies. I’ve had the opportunity to work on machinery such as lathes and milling machines, which were brand new mechanical engineering experiences for me. We’ve also worked on robots and control and instrumentation assemblies to gain electrical engineering experience

What sort of projects have you been/are you working on?

I’ve been lucky enough to work on a variety of great projects, including:

  • Designing, producing and using a coaxial cable tester, which helped to confirm that the coaxial cables on the MAST reactors amplifiers were safe to be used.
  • Designing a mount, test procedure and producing a data recording sheet for a friction weld sample. This was particularly interesting because the sample may become the future of how in-vessel components are attached to the inside of a reactor.
  • Designing a thermal couple feedthrough for the ‘Heating by Induction to Verify Extremes (HIVE)’ vessel, so that a more practical temperature recording can be set up than the current options.
  • Producing one of the new oxygen monitoring alarm systems (beacon and sounder) found in the JET Taurus hall, as well as the front plate for the incident desks response to the oxygen monitors.

Have there been any memorable projects/experiences from the training you’ve received at OAS?

The Mars Rover mission really stood out for me because it combined teamwork with a competitive edge. It was a good way of including project management, time management, design skills and practical skills all in to one project, as well as getting to work with people we might not usually have collaborated with.

How has the apprenticeship programme been beneficial to you and your career?

My apprenticeship has given me the platform as well as all the tools I need to be successful in an engineering environment. It also continually gives me support and opportunities that will take me even further in my career than I would have ever expected when I first started the programme.

What would you say are the benefits and what advice would you offer to those looking to apply to the OAS apprenticeship programme?

The benefits of the programme here are the quality of support and education that OAS provides. This apprenticeship takes a lot of hard work and focus to excel. My advice would therefore be to go into each task with a positive attitude, willingness to try and commitment to the work, even if it is something that you know you won’t pursue in the long run, because every opportunity OAS provides is a learning curve to help you be the best you can be.

What are your future career plans?

My immediate future career plan is to complete my NVQ and HNC, because I’d like to secure a degree in whatever area I decide to specialise in. Over the longer term, I want to continue to improve my engineering abilities and hope to take on more responsibilities and projects of my own.

Would you recommend apprenticeships to others?

It’s easy for me to recommend apprenticeships to others – it’s the ideal way to earn money while learning and developing in a sector that itself is constantly improving, innovating and inventing new and exciting things you can work on.