Unite member Catherine Llewellyn-Jones was a teacher but felt that she needed a change of career – and is now part way through an apprenticeship at Airbus in Filton where she training as an Undergraduate Aerospace Engineer.
Catherine works full time at Airbus, with two days week at university during term time, and is working towards a degree in Aerospace Engineering with UWE (University of the West of England) and NVQ level 4 in Engineering and Advanced Manufacture through City of Bristol College as part of my apprenticeship.
Catherine also plans to apply for Incorporated Engineer Status with the Royal Aeronautical Society when she finishes the scheme.
Before deciding to become an apprentice, engineer Catherine had completed a degree in mathematics and trained as a secondary mathematics teacher.
I worked briefly in Secondary Schools teaching mathematics and music before moving to France where I taught English.”
I came back to the UK as a single mum in 2014. I tried to get back into teaching part-time but found the hours too long and the work too stressful to juggle both a working life and have enough time for my young daughter.”
Deciding that she would like to use her mathematics skills in a different way Catherine thought that engineering would be a good route to take, but this would need another degree which wasn’t financial viable.
Then Catherine heard about Higher Apprenticeships at Airbus, a company she was aware of from her time in France. “I was thrilled when I found that Airbus offered the higher apprenticeship -and that they had no upper age limit, which I believed would be the case.”
The apprenticeship has proved to be a lot of work – but worth it.
I have found it tiring working, studying and bringing up a child at the same time but it is also very rewarding.”
As a single parent Catherine has sometimes found juggling child care, work and study difficult, and has had to be very organised her time, luckily her mum has been able to offer support, allowing Catherine to take up some of the opportunities offered to apprentices, such as a week doing Outward Bound in the Lake District or a week in Germany to improve language skills and find out about different cultures.
This has worked out well and Catherine couldn’t be happier with her decision – saying:
I am so happy that I decided to become an engineer. The work is interesting and challenging and I can see that I will be learning new things for the rest of my career. Inevitably, I occasionally have a day where I find some of the work tedious but then, invariably, the next day throws up new opportunities or challenges that renew the interest for me and brighten up my days.”
I feel very lucky to be able to do a job that I really enjoy, which also has a good career path, the opportunity to travel and live abroad and offers the progression that I would like.”
Catherine isn’t sure which direction she hopes to follow after finishing the scheme – but is keen to become a senior/ lead engineer, and Airbus has a mentoring scheme allowing her to talk to a mentor about plans and work out what training and experience needed to move into future roles. Airbus encourages staff to change your job every 4-5 years, so there is always the ability to learn new skills and make the most of new opportunities.
Catherine joined Unite when signing up as an apprentice and said:
Having been a teacher I understand the importance of being a member of a union, so I joined Unite. I am lucky enough not to have needed the union so far, but it has been reassuring knowing that if I do need advice or legal support, and this applies to outside of work too, then I have someone I can contact.”
Catherine said she would encourage other people exploring a career change to consider the apprenticeship route. She said:
I would certainly recommend that people looking to change a career consider taking up apprenticeships, especially if that means they will need different qualifications.”
They need to consider if they can manage to live on a lower income, but it is time limited and, in my opinion, the opportunities afterwards often outweigh the temporary drop in income. My apprenticeship guarantees a job at the end of the scheme, which is perfect for me as I would like to stay working for Airbus.”
Though not all apprenticeships do guarantee jobs Catherine feels that you have better employment chances if you have gained qualifications along with work experience and relevant references.
Catherine added that:
Apprenticeships won’t be the right choice for everyone, and there is a lot of competition to get on a scheme, but if you are looking to change career I would certainly recommend considering an apprenticeship.”