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3 minute read

Interview: Launching a manufacturing career via an apprenticeship scheme

Innovations within technology and automation mean that UK manufacturing is experiencing an exciting period of rapid change, with much to offer school leavers who have a passion and aptitude for science, technology and engineering.

Deciding on the right career path within manufacturing however, and the best route to take to make those dreams a reality, can sometimes seem a daunting prospect for young people considering their options.

As Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technician Jack Mottershaw explains, entering the manufacturing industry via an apprenticeship scheme can offer huge advantages in terms of combining paid on-the-job training with the opportunity to further your education.

Jack joined the JJS Manufacturing three-year Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme in September 2011 at the age of 16. Although he was keen on science, maths and technology at school, Jack says he knew he “didn’t want to go down the A levels or university route.”

“My Dad suggested I take a look at an apprenticeship as an option. Then a teacher at school handed me a leaflet for an Open Day at a local electronics manufacturer.”

Jack joined JJS on the Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme in 2011 / Picture: JJS Manufacturing


As it turned out, the time frame from making his initial enquiries to being offered a place was surprisingly quick. Within the space of two months he went from attending the Open Day (where he had the opportunity to walk around the factory and register his interest in a position,) to being offered his first interview, going through the assessment process and starting his first day on the job.

Apprenticeships typically combine the opportunity for on-the-job training with classroom learning, but exactly what you learn depends on the role you’re training for.

In Jack’s case, the flexible nature of the scheme meant he was able to combine paid employment with an approved study programme (comprising one day of college education each week) during which he completed his HNC in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

On the job training

As an apprentice Jack worked alongside experienced staff and engineers and had the opportunity to take part in the development of a wide variety of new products and technologies.  He was also able to work across all parts of the manufacturing operation, from production right through to test.

As he explains, “You definitely need a level of maturity. You’re leaving the normal school routine and entering the working world. You’re basically responsible for your own learning, so you need a lot of self-motivation.

“It’s also important not to be afraid to ask for help when you need it. You really need to seek out opportunities rather than waiting for them to be handed to you on a plate.”

For Jack, “seeking out opportunities” meant asking to be able to shadow a wireman with more than 20 years’ work experience in order to gain a deeper practical understanding of the role.

After completing his apprenticeship, Jack is now a Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technician / Picture: JJS Manufacturing


Career advancement

Following the conclusion of the three year apprenticeship scheme, Jack became a full-time member of the electro-mechanical team, and has since moved into engineering.  As he explains, no two days are the same, with the job requiring an element of customer facing and a fair amount of time spent offsite supporting products once they’ve been delivered and dealing with updates.

In 2017 for example, he spent much of the first half of the year travelling to and from the company’s offshore facility in the Czech Republic. He was also asked to travel to France to liaise with a customer regarding a design review.

He is also mindful of the degree of financial stability that the apprenticeship scheme offered him. In contrast to many of his peers, who took other educational routes after leaving school, Jack has managed to gain invaluable work experience and further his education whilst remaining debt-free through the entire process. He is also currently studying towards his HND, with support from his employers.

So what advice does Jack have for other young people who may be considering applying for an apprenticeship scheme within the manufacturing industry?

“Go and see for yourself – go to an open day where you can see the business in action and speak to other apprentices. Getting the answers to questions, directly from those people who are living and breathing the industry, will be invaluable in helping to focus your plans.”