15 Questions With: a Mechanical Design Apprentice

6 min
February 23, 2021
Here at Springpod, our mission is to connect students with employers to help them achieve that all-important dream destination – and many of these destinations are apprenticeships. So we decided to reach out to some of the employers that use our platform to have a chat to their apprentices, with the aim of giving a real insight into what they do to continue to help students in the decision-making of their future. First up is Matt who is currently an apprentice at Cavendish Nuclear, the UK’s leading supplier to the nuclear industry.

About Matt

Hi Matt! Tell us a brief history of you and your career.

I was a student at Culcheth High School and started my apprenticeship with Cavendish Nuclear straight out of high school at the age of 16. During the first year of my apprenticeship, I attended a training provider where I learnt practical manufacturing skills and basic CAD knowledge. After I completed my first year I transitioned into the workplace and got placed onto a live engineering project. Currently, I am in the third year of my four-year apprenticeship.

About the apprenticeship

What drew you to Cavendish Nuclear’s apprenticeship?

One of the main things was that I didn’t want to take the standard route through college into university. Instead, I wanted to get straight into the workplace and learn hands-on. For me, Design Engineering was the best of both worlds; I enjoyed working with ICT equipment but also enjoyed the practical hands-on approach seen in a workshop. With this apprenticeship at Cavendish Nuclear uniting both of my interests in learning and working, it was the perfect fit. Additionally, the opportunity to get paid whilst you learn is not a bad thing!

How did you discover the apprenticeship?

My Dad works in the Engineering industry and informed me of a range of companies that offer what I was looking for. Cavendish was one of them.

Take us through how you begin your working day.

Each day brings its own challenges and so can have a different start. However, I generally start my day by liaising with my line manager and colleagues, talking to them about the task at hand and how I plan to carry out my work. This time allows me to hear their advice on the matter, allowing me to make the most appropriate course of action.

What does a standard working day in the life of Matt consist of?

Generally, my main role in the project that I am currently working on is to produce 3D CAD models. To do this I use the software Autodesk Inventor where I create relevant models and put them together within assemblies. However, sometimes I am required to produce calculations, research suitable manufacturers, attend meetings, produce documents and more.

What challenges do you face at work?

Each day differs, but the main challenge I face in my job is problem-solving; ranging from finding the solution to fix an existing bit of kit to coming up with a completely new design from scratch. Additionally, I have to make sure that the kit that I design interfaces properly with the other areas of the project and conforms to the correct standards and procedures.

What motivates you?

The fact that my designs are going to be used to help manage the UK’s nuclear waste is pretty cool. Overcoming the challenges presented to me on a daily basis and coming up with a successful outcome motivates me too, alongside my input being valued and considered.

How do you like to end your working day?

I like to end the day by getting the task at hand to a suitable level for me to pick up the next day, saving all of the files that I have been working on and storing them in a suitable place. I follow the correct shutdown procedures for my ICT equipment and lock away any sensitive documents/drawings.

What do you do to unwind after your day of being an apprentice?

I usually watch an episode of a TV series. I would definitely recommend Suits to anyone looking for a good one…

Tell us what you have liked most about your apprenticeship.

Personally, the challenges that I face on a daily basis is one of the best things about the apprenticeship; constantly being tested and expanding knowledge ensures that the job never becomes boring. Additionally, the wide range of opportunities that have been open to me. I have already been able to participate in company-wide events and site visits.

Tell us what you have liked least about your apprenticeship.

Honestly, I’m not sure! Probably having to produce reports.

What has being a Mechanical Design Apprentice taught you?

A huge range of skills (and I’m sure there are many more to come!). During the first year of my apprenticeship on the shop floor, I gained a huge range of practical skills learning how to weld; operate lathes; operate milling machines; fitting skills; sheet metal skills and basic 2D & 3D CAD knowledge. Then during my second and third year working in the office, my general and specific engineering knowledge increased significantly as well as my skill with 2D & 3D CAD. All the time whilst studying for a Level Three BTEC in Engineering and now a Level Four HNC. The company’s apprentice development programme has also developed key skills such as my ability to deliver a presentation, work efficiently within a team and more.

Matt’s thoughts on apprenticeships

Do you think apprenticeships are useful?

Definitely! I believe that the combination of the world of practical work with learning an academic qualification is the best route to take. Apprenticeships give you a pathway into a rewarding and challenging career, providing you with key experiences and relevant industry knowledge. I would recommend apprenticeships to any student who is set on a particular industry.

What would you recommend to young STEM students to get a successful career in the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths?

I would recommend them to do as much as they can to make themselves stand out from the crowd. When I applied for my apprenticeship I taught myself some basic CAD skills, produced some simple models and brought screenshots to my interview. Even though the level of my CAD models was very basic, it showed that I was interested in engineering and genuinely wanted a successful career within it. Show the company you want to work for that you’re willing to go the extra mile and put in the work required.

Matt’s future

What’s the next step in Matt’s journey? 

Firstly, my initial focus is to successfully complete my apprenticeship to a high level. This involves completing my HNC, NVQ and gaining the relevant experience to become a competent designer. After my apprenticeship, the company’s Developing Engineer programme appeals to me; the programme is where Cavendish Nuclear funds you through university and you gain the relevant experience during the time to become a fully-qualified Engineer, working in a similar way to an apprenticeship. Following that, the company is doing some exciting work in other countries, so an opportunity abroad may present itself!

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Thanks for the chat, Matt. Springpod wishes you the best of luck in your future endeavours – we’re sure that you are going to take the STEM world by storm!

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