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News > Alumni News > Martin talks about a practical approach to life after A-levels

Martin talks about a practical approach to life after A-levels

27 Jan 2020
Alumni News

Martin, 21, is a 3rd year engineering degree apprentice at Jaguar Land Rover and is currently working within the early product design and development Computer Aided Design department, working with others to create intelligent 3D models and toolsets for Body and Chassis components.

 


MARTIN PACE-BONELLO (2010-17) - A PRACTICAL APPROACH

Martin, 21, is a 3rd year engineering degree apprentice at Jaguar Land Rover and is currently working within the early product design and development Computer Aided Design department, working with others to create intelligent 3D models and toolsets for Body and Chassis components.

What made you want to apply for an apprenticeship?

After researching UCAS options and looking into the prospect of going to university to study Engineering, I was excited at the thought of studying a subject I was passionate about, and about student life. Despite this, I had several doubts in my mind. Would I suit university life?  Do I have a chance of being employed in a profession I studied for after finishing my degree? Is it personally worth the thousands of pounds of debt? Would I obtain enough hands-on, employable skills required by my future employer? 

These doubts led me to research alternative options for higher education, and through this, I found out about apprenticeships, particularly, the degree apprenticeship programme at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). This program was personally perfect for me, with the prospect of on-the-job training in a role I was interested in, a paid-for Foundation Degree and BEng degree in Applied Engineering, and a salary to help me to move out and live away from home.

How easy a process was it to apply?

The application process for the degree apprenticeship was a long, yet worthwhile, multiple stage process, starting with an online application via JLR's careers website. To apply for the program, JLR required two grade Cs at A-Level (one being mathematics and the other a scientific/technical subject) and the submission of a cover letter detailing why I wanted to apply. After this and some background checks, JLR invited me to perform two online tests. 

The first involved a psychometric/aptitude test; a timed set of questions to test basic knowledge of Maths, verbal reasoning and the company itself. The second test was a knowledge test; presented in a similar format, however with more challenging engineering and problem solving questions to answer in a given time-frame. Fortunately, the results I obtained allowed me to be invited to attend an assessment centre in person. During this one day assessment, a small group of other applications and I were put through a series of challenges and tests. This included a team-working exercise to solve a problem as a group, individual problem solving activities, and an interview to answer questions about our experiences and knowledge of the automotive industry. 

After all this, I was fortunate enough to receive a phone call in May to inform me that I was part of a chosen 190 people in the UK to join the degree apprenticeship programme (provided I obtained the entry grades required).

What A-levels did you take, did JLR stipulate any entry requirements?

As I mentioned earlier, JLR required two grade Cs at A-level. For my A-levels, I studied Product Design, Physics, Maths, and most Further Maths modules. Being interested in engineering naturally led me to study these subjects, however, with just two Cs as the entry grades, I still wanted to carry on studying all these subjects. This was made worthwhile during my time studying on the apprenticeship itself, where I quickly realised that by carrying on the 'non-mandatory' subjects like Product Design and Further Maths, I had an advantage in terms of my prior knowledge of certain subjects being studied in the college and university courses.

How did you find out about the apprenticeship?

I found the apprenticeship by completing a lot of research about future career options. My task was to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of both going university and completing an apprenticeship, in order to determine the right choice for me. JLR was the perfect choice for what I personally wanted to achieve post-Sixth Form.
 

What was your first year with JLR like?

As part of my apprenticeship program, my first year involved a combination of college tuition to obtain my Foundation Degree in Engineering, an induction to JLR as an organisation, and also working within JLR Gaydon plant. 

My very first few weeks involved a long induction process - into both the company and Warwickshire College (my new place of study). The company inductions introduced us to the way of working at JLR, involving exciting looks into the job roles other apprentices have been doing. Being at school and being in the workplace take two very different approaches. A more business, professional conduct, a willingness to learn and more individual, initiative based work hard were very important and vital to the success of a JLR apprentice. We had, and still have, monthly reviews of our progress and work throughout the company. These are to review progress and determine whether additional support or more challenging work must be provided to ensure we are getting the most out of our time working in the company. At the end of the day, each one of us is an investment for JLR. They are investing vast amounts of money to ensure we become fulfilled, world-class engineers of the future. 

The feeling that JLR want us to succeed was a great driving force in my work and college study. In terms of my workload, college felt similar to A-levels; keeping up with assignments and exam revision. I am currently sitting through my third, out of six, year of the programme and this the year I have started university studies. My workload is much more intense now, as it means I work 40 hours a week in Gaydon plant, as well as being required to study and fulfill a year-long degree that has been condensed into 6 intense weeks of learning. It's hard work, but I am enjoying what I am working on and learning about, which is very important.

Do you have any tips for current Sixth formers thinking about alternatives to university?

If you don't think university is the right thing for you, there are many other great options waiting for you. Hundreds of companies and organisations are willing to invest in young, passionate individuals, training them to become technically qualified, while having them experience the workplace all at the same time. You just have to pick the one that's right for you. 

Some programs offer a paid degree, and others don't, so be sure to check which one is right for what you want to achieve post-Sixth Form. For those who think even A-levels may not be right for them, companies like Aston Martin are offering short, post-GCSE internships to act as great work experience. Researching thoroughly what programme is best for you is very important to ensure you are happy with what you are doing in later life. 

In terms of student life, I did miss out on the opportunity of a freshers experience for example, however, with my apprenticeship, the college courses meant I experienced a form of student life, surrounded with many other apprentices in the same position as me, who make my time very enjoyable.

What are your plans for the future?

My next steps in the second half of the apprenticeship are to complete my BEng degree with JLR and begin researched and carrying out internal placements within different departments in the company. My plan is to experience as many different roles as possible in order for me to gauge what I might like to do when I (hopefully!) graduate the apprenticeship and begin working as an engineer at JLR. The 2 to 6 month placements I have been thinking of trying out in the company include Studio Engineering, Vehicle Launch, and Marketing role tasters. By developing a broad view about how the company and industry operates, I can begin building on these foundations to learn and keep learning as much as possible.

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