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5 minute read

What’s it really like to kick start your career in manufacturing?

Neil Sharp from JJS Manufacturing reflects on his 20-year career in engineering, explores what the sector has to offer young people and asks some of the staff at JJS about their experiences so far, what they’ve achieved and what advice they would give to others considering a career in manufacturing.

When I was at school I remember sitting down with a ‘careers advisor’ and being asked lots of questions. My answers were then fed into some kind of supercomputer running a fresh copy of Windows 98 and it told me I should either go to University, work in retail or join the forces.

As I had already decided University wasn’t for me, I didn’t want to sell shoes for the rest of my life and thought getting shot at 18 was a bit dangerous, I looked into getting an apprenticeship. To me it seemed like the best of both worlds – hands-on work experience, a salary and a formal qualification – and 20 years on I still believe I made the right decision.

JJS Manufacturing provides complete outsourced manufacturing solutions for low to medium volume, high complexity industrial electronics / Picture: JJS


Fast forward to 2018, the range of further education and career options now available to students is overwhelming. Whilst this is clearly a good thing the number of manufacturing and engineering companies represented at some of career events I’ve recently attended is still quite low. So, there’s more work to be done and as a starting point, we need to make sure students are fully aware of the training and development opportunities that exist within our exciting and diverse sector. Let’s not keep them a secret!

Here are some stories from a number of JJS staff that originally joined us on one of our training schemes. 

Ryan Devereux: Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technician

After leaving school, Ryan spent two years working in carpentry before deciding he wanted to explore other options and applying for a place on the JJS apprenticeship scheme. Ryan has worked in general assembly and wiring at JJS before taking up his current role in engineering where he is currently completing his HNC. “It’s the variety of work at JJS that really interests me. In my current role I’m responsible for reviewing technical drawings supplied by our customers and making sure our production team can build against them. Sometimes the information on the drawings can be sparse or there can be inconsistencies. There’s quite often a bit of ‘back and forth’ between our engineers and the customer before we have all of the data we need for a job. It’s so important to take pride in your work. During my time in the wiring section I found that some of the cabinet builds can be pretty taxing, especially when you’re building something that hasn’t been made before. I remember one particularly complex product took me four weeks to build and whilst it was a long process, it was so satisfying to see the finished unit at the end. I never really enjoyed school but since I’ve been at JJS I’ve discovered I actually quite enjoy going to college. Perhaps it’s because of the more focused, integrated approach to learning. In fact if there’s one thing I wish I’d done differently it would have been to apply for my HNC place a year earlier!”

Megan Sherriff: Quality Trainee Electronics

Megan had previously worked in a business administration apprenticeship with a printing company, but was drawn to the diversity of the electronics manufacturing environment so decided to apply for the JJS apprenticeship scheme. Her role involves handling customer queries, data collection and sorting out any issues that might arise on the shop floor if things don’t quite go to plan. “I’d not worked in manufacturing before and it was quite a transition moving from a smaller family run company to something of JJS’s size. It was very much a case of learning from square one. I got to spend time in lots of different departments around the factory and the hands-on approach to learning has been the perfect way to learn all the different processes. It’s also been great to take part in a range of training courses. My favourite so far has been the IPC training which teaches you the standard at which you need to build a PCB. Part of my role now includes training all new starters on ESD prevention and making sure they are certified internally. To anyone looking to pursue a career in electronics manufacturing, I’d definitely say ‘go for it!’

Taylor Bramwell: Apprentice EMECH Wiring Section

Taylor had completed a Level 2 NVQ Engineering qualification when he joined JJS as an apprentice in September 2017 and is now working towards his Level 3. In his current role, Taylor is responsible for preparing all the wire and cable for the wiring section which includes cutting and crimping in readiness for the build. “Thinking back to the interview stage I enjoyed the hands-on nature of the application process. After the Open Evening there were a series of interviews, then a trial period where I got to work in different sections of the business. It was definitely a big step to come straight from college and to adapt to working life. But the company has offered loads of support and whilst it’s still early days, I’m enjoying the variety and flexibility of the scheme.”

JJS Manufacturing offers a number of training schemes to new recruits, to support the talent of the future / Picture: JJS


Felicity Warner: Account Manager

Felicity joined JJS via the commercial graduate scheme in October 2015. She has a degree in Physical Geography and took a year out to travel before applying to JJS. Felicity successfully completed the training scheme back in August 2017 and now works as an Account Manager. Since completing the programme she has been involved in a number of significant contracts which have demanded a combination of sales and project management skills from her, with a focus on customer interaction and support. “JJS was a completely new environment for me. I had no experience of working in electronics and hadn’t worked in a factory before. What I really liked about JJS’s graduate scheme is that it encourages its employees to learn all areas of the business. There’s definitely been loads to learn, especially from the technical side of things – from understanding engineering through to printed circuit board assembly and test but everyone helps you. I really appreciated the mentoring that was offered to me during my early days at JJS. And, now that I’ve completed the training, I’ve also enjoyed mentoring other graduates. In the future I’d love to be an ambassador for the scheme and I hope to be able to inspire more female graduates to consider a career in manufacturing. My advice for anyone considering a programme like this is to take as many notes as possible during the training stage, be clear and concise in your communication and take the opportunity to learn from everyone you meet along the way.”

Thomas Williams: Commercial Graduate

Thomas joined JJS via the commercial graduate scheme in October 2016. He has a degree in History and is currently working through the remainder of his training alongside one of JJS’s experienced Senior Account Managers. “Upon finishing my History degree, I wanted to secure a job that offered me the opportunity to gain some commercial training and to join a business that would invest in me for the future. This is exactly what JJS has offered. They recognise that graduates fresh from University will not have a comprehensive business knowledge, or any technical knowledge of electronics manufacturing, and they offer any individual the opportunity for a ground up tailored training programme. I was originally concerned that I knew very little about business, and even more so manufacturing, however, throughout the two-year graduate programme, I have been given the chance to learn on the job through various rotations around the different departments within the company. This gives anyone on the graduate scheme an experience of what life is like in each department, and allowing graduates to steadily build up their technical and business acumen, ready for life as an Account Manager. JJS take an interest in all their graduates’ development, and there is a mentor programme to ensure that each individual is happy with how the programme is progressing, as well as the opportunity to conduct further postgraduate study”.