National Apprenticeship Week 2019: Lois Harris07 March 2019

National Apprenticeship Week, 4-8 March, shines a light on future technicians and engineers, and the courses, teachers and employers that prepare them for success. Lois Harris is a product development engineer at Bisley.

I have recently completed my engineering apprenticeship with Bisley. Following the apprenticeship program, I have completed a two-year Level 3 BTEC Course in Engineering, this was followed by another two years of studying for my HNC (Higher National Certificate) in Mechanical Engineering at Newport and District Group Training. In addition to this, I have completed vocational qualifications including NVQ Level 2 and 3 in Engineering Technical Support.

I am currently working within the design department as a Product Development Engineer. This provides a wide variety of work, from looking at new products which we plan to bring to market or improvement projects which make positive changes to the products we are already manufacturing. In addition to this, my role within the company is focussed on becoming a ‘lock expert’. The locking solutions we provide with our furniture is becoming more sophisticated and complex, and as a result the company needs someone who can gather the key information required and ensure we can provide a solution which exceeds the customer’s expectations.

Whilst completing my GCSEs at Comprehensive School, I enjoyed maths, physics and product design. As a result, after finishing school, I began looking for apprenticeships as the next stage in my education, and to provide me with the opportunity of a job. I was keen to get practical experience as well as continuing with my academic qualifications, therefore an apprenticeship seemed to offer the perfect balance. I was sceptical about going to college and university as many people find it difficult to get a job afterwards and are in a considerable amount of debt. I applied for various apprenticeships within the industry, however, after visiting the company for an interview, I felt it would be a great place to start my career.

I have learnt various new skills since taking on an apprentice role, but I would say the main advantage of an apprenticeship is getting the industry experience. Not only in terms of being able to see the practical applications of the theory you learn, but also to be able to speak to other employees who have studied and qualified in the same field. Currently working within the design department, I am lucky to be surrounded by people who come from mechanical engineering or product design backgrounds. They can give me help and support on difficult tasks and can help to ensure I learn from mistakes which have been made in the past. The apprenticeship has also helped in my personal development; gaining more confidence.

I would definitely encourage anyone to seriously consider applying for an apprenticeship. It is a great opportunity to continue with your education, whilst also gaining practical work experience. It can be challenging to balance college work with a job. It can also help with your personal development, you learn the importance of effective communication and how to work effectively within a team. An apprenticeship gives you a wide range of skills to take forward into your career.

I am currently studying for my HND (Higher National Diploma) in Mechanical Engineering at Newport and District Group Training. On completion of this qualification in July, I hope to continue my education by studying for my BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering Degree on a part time basis at one of the local universities. In addition to this, I hope to continue to learn about the manufacturing and product development process used within the company. I hope that working as part of the Product Development Team will allow me to continue a varied workload, improving existing products and assisting in bringing new product ranges to the market.

Lois Harris

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