The 5% Club Case Study: Tom Wheatley

In the latest in the series of The 5% Club case studies, we take a look at Tom Wheatley, a third year QinetiQ  aeronautical apprentice at MOD Boscombe Down. Find out more about Tom’s daily role, plus his thoughts on The 5% Club.

Tom Wheatley The 5% ClubBefore I embarked on my apprenticeship at QinetiQ, I did A-Levels with the aim of being a landscape designer.  I decided to take time out of education and worked for a year but realised gardening wasn’t for me.

After looking at various options, what I knew I didn’t want to do was to go to university. I learn practically and, although Uni is right for some careers, apprenticeships are great for practical learners like me. So the path that I decided to go down was to train as an apprentice with a view to entering the engineering industry, developing valuable skills whilst learning ‘on the job’. Despite strong competition, I was fortunate enough to enrol at the QinetiQ Apprentice Training School at MOD Boscombe Down, and I can safely say that I haven’t looked back since.

My dad was a one-time apprentice and his experiences helped me to understand what an apprenticeship entailed and the opportunities that it could hand me.

What I really like about the QinetiQ apprenticeship scheme is the sheer versatility of the programme. Upon enrolling, my initial ambition was to train to become an aircraft engineer. However, the breadth of learning here and the proximity you have to different areas of the company has meant that my career path has changed.

At QinetiQ, you can really carve out your own career without being pigeonholed, whilst still developing a wide set of skills that are transferrable. The company allows you to target your own goals, and they provide you with all the support and rewards you need.

Another aspect of the apprenticeship that I have really benefited from is the opportunity to work within the company itself, amongst experienced QinetiQ staff. Working alongside my future colleagues has enabled me to earn their respect and it represents a great practical experience too.

Throughout my apprenticeship at QinetiQ, I have worked in a calm and unpressurised environment that has allowed me to refine and develop various skills, ready for real-world situations. There is a newly refurbished aircraft hangar at MOD Boscombe Down which now forms part of the QinetiQ Apprentice Training School, and will be a hugely important aspect of our practical education.

The hangar now gives students much more space and provides us with the right equipment to develop skills, including de-commissioned aircraft that will be used for practical lessons.

There are two rotary-aircraft within the hangar: a Lynx and a Gazelle helicopter, as well as a fixed-wing Bulldog aircraft, aircraft engines and components. My fellow apprentices and myself are going to gain vast experience working on these  and by learning ‘live’ in this environment, we are getting a head start on others who enter the industry as undergraduates.

Tom’s thoughts on The 5% Club:

The 5% Club is a very positive and important initiative. Apprenticeships are a rather unknown entity amongst school leavers and that is something that I feel must change.

Young people are often presented with just two choices when leaving school; start working with no training, or go to university. Apprenticeships have until recently been seen as an unattractive ‘other’ route, and aren’t fully understood by school leavers.  From my own experience, apprenticeships are a comparable option to University and a fantastic way to get into the work place. They can increase chances of employment, whilst also being paid at the same time – that is something that a university course cannot compete with.

If the 5% Club can increase awareness of apprenticeships schemes as well as inspire other companies to provide further opportunities for those who wish to get their foot on the careers ladder, then it could have a massive impact on my generation.