As part of our National Apprenticeship Week drive, we take a look at QinetiQ apprentice Mike Dodd. Mike is part of the QinetiQ team taking part in the 2014 Brathay Challenge. Supported by the National Apprenticeship Service, the Brathay Challenge aims to find the apprentice team of the year by putting them through a series of challenges aimed at testing team building, leadership, logistical and communications abilities.
To monitor how they get on, follow the team on Twitter: @QATSBAC14
Mike is a second year team building, leadership, logistical and communications abilities. Read more about his day to day role at QinetiW, and his experiences in the Brathay Challenge below.
Before embarking on an apprenticeship at QinetiQ, I had applied to two different aeronautical courses at university, as well as this apprenticeship. I was struggling to decide which of the courses to study, and after a discussion with a lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, I decided to pursue the apprenticeship instead. The main thing that attracted me was the hands-on experience I would gain whilst earning my way at the same time.
I was aware of QinetiQ and the Boscombe Down training school before I applied to join their apprenticeship programme. I was accepted onto their mechanical aeronautical apprenticeship course, and currently I am in my second year.
The first two years of the apprenticeship are spent in the Hangar. A typical day revolves around theory and practical learning. A day lasts from 8am to 4:30pm and the morning is usually spent in the classroom, learning the theory side of mechanical engineering. In the afternoon, we’ll head out to the hangar for practical lessons, where we’ll usually work on decommissioned aircraft. It offers a great environment to learn and develop skills.
The highlight of my time so far as a QinetiQ apprentice has to be watching ground runs of an RAF Tornado jet. A ground run is a series of safety checks performed on an aircraft, including thrusting the engines. I was fortunate enough to experience the incredible sound a Tornado generates first hand, and the experience was awesome and unforgettable. I get a real kick out of working and being around aircraft, so it was an incredibly exciting experience. Although of course, not everyday is like that!
One of the aspects of an apprenticeship that a degree just cannot match is the unparalleled experience that is on offer. Depending on your degree, there are a multitude of reasons to go down the university route, but by pursuing an apprenticeship, I am gaining valuable working hours very early on in my career. In that respect, I am gaining an advantage over a graduate.
I have two and a half years left of my apprenticeship at QinetiQ, and I am already looking forward to continuing my work beyond the training My advice to any school leavers looking to pursue an apprenticeship is to just go for it! There is an impression that apprenticeships aren’t as ‘academic’ as university but I do not believe that at all.
What I would say is that the skills you learn at A-Level are vital, whether you go to university or enrol on an apprenticeship, so work equally as hard regardless of your future plans.
Part of my QinetiQ apprenticeship involves taking part in the Brathay Apprentice Challenge, a nationwide competition supported by the National Apprenticeship Service and organised by the Brathay Trust. The aim is to demonstrate the quality of apprenticeships, whilst there is a competitive edge to do as well for your company as possible.
Last week, I took part in the Apprenticeship Slam, the latest event in the competition. I will be spoke in front of senior secondary school pupils about my training and background, and was up against challengers from the likes of Babcock and JP Morgan. The general outline of my talk was to explain why QinetiQ’s apprenticeship programme is the best in the world. Of course in my view, it is!