A Mechanical Engineering Apprentice

My Dad already worked for Greenfield Engineering and he encouraged me to apply for an Engineering Apprenticeship because he said that I would make a good engineer and would be working with a company that values its staff as well as using cutting edge technology. The company had a great setup for training young apprentices by established sheet metal engineers who are very passionate about sharing their knowledge and experience to develop young engineers for the business.

I also attend Petroc College one day each week for classroom learning which hopefully will result in me achieving a BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Mechanical Engineering. The college assessor also pays regular visits to my workplace where I am building a detailed portfolio of evidence to support my Level 3 NVQ Extended Diploma in Mechanical Manufacturing Engineering.

My typical day at Greenfield Engineeering

07.30 – I arrive at about 7.15 and clock in. I usually go into the production office were Kieron my Team Leader has printed off the day’s work orders for each punching machine. These are the jobs required for that day’s production.

08.00 – I then issue the works orders to the relevant punching machines, and show the operators their order of priorities. Then I can go to my machine which is at present the Amada EML combination. I then set up the first job.

09.00 – I request Roy our forklift driver to collect from our material stores the material needed for the day’s production. I also carry out a full stock check of material as well as current parts in progress and pass this information back to the Production Scheduling team.

10.00 – Is our first tea break I usually chat with the other apprentices and engineers. I check what jobs are running and relay that information back to the team leader before his production meeting.

11.00 – The team leader after his production meeting will sometimes change punching priorities. I am then responsible for batch shortages or urgent samples on my machine. I will then update my material list if I haven’t got the material in the tower waiting.

12.00 – I have my lunch in the canteen and talk with the first year apprentices on what they have been doing or learnt that morning.

12.30 – After lunch I return and log into our MRP system and update work orders which have been punched/lasercut in morning. This helps keep the system live and the production scheduling team can clearly see if the day’s production targets are being achieved. I will also do my routine checks and maintenance on the laser. This consists of setting and centering the laser beam. I will recalibrate the laser head and make fine adjustments to make the laser beam central in the lens, also checking the cutting nozzle is clean.

13.00 – I then carry on with production till 2.30 when I go for my last tea break, but the EML is automated so will carry on running production through break. As I finish jobs I will book off more work orders on the system, I go through with my Team Leader (mentor) what I have learnt today and how I felt about the tasks I have completed.

15.00 – This is the last part of the day and is usually were we start getting production ready for the second shift. I make sure the furnace bins are empty; the gas has enough to run without stopping half way through a sheet run. Empty the slug bin. Check material has been brought over from the stores. Then it’s time to clean and tidy my work area. I will then go over with my team leader what production has not been completed and what I think should go through onto the second shift. I will then write up my handover shift notes which will help the second shift determine their priorities. I leave the place in a clean, safe and organised, ready for the next shift to take over.

16.30 – clock out.

Q&A with Lewis Hamilton, our mechanical Engineering Apprentice

What is your favourite part of the job?
I work in a small team of four in the sheet metal punching department. My favourite part of the job is the great team spirit and I enjoy the many different jobs. We all know and work to help each other and I feel like part of a big happy group. It is also great that we socialise a bit outside of work and are all just good friends.

What would you say is your biggest achievement since starting your apprenticeship?
Being introduced into the factory / engineering environment with people I didn’t know and machinery or technology that I have never seen before was a bit daunting as a young lad. But now being able to operate the majority of our CNC Punches, Laser and Press Brakes along with becoming an important member of staff and having many good friends at work has been a great achievement.

How do you relax when you are not working?
My biggest passion outside of work is football and I currently play for my local side. My preferred positions are either Defensive midfield or Defender. I feel that this team sport also help with my approach to team working in the workplace. “Knowing each team members strengths and weaknesses” is crucial for any team to operate effectively.

Why did you decide to become an Apprentice?
I decided to become an apprentice after completing a week’s work experience at Greenfield engineering. Before this I was in school not really knowing what I wanted to do after my GCSE’s.I knew I didn’t want to continue with fulltime education and decided that the opportunity to earn whilst I was learning was too good an opportunity to miss out on. Almost three years on and I can definitely say that it was the right decision.

What are the best things about working in the Sheet Metal Industry?
The best thing about working in Sheet Metal Engineering is that it is interesting and very diverse. There is always a problem to be solved with new technology being brought in and different processes which I need to learn and adapt my skills. Also, I get to try different engineering activities from Design Engineering, CNC turret punching, Press brake and Panel bending work. Maybe eventually moving into being a team leader.

A Fabrication & Welding Apprentice

I am just an ordinary teenager; I enjoy keeping busy and also spending time with my friends when not in work. Before I started on Greenfield’s apprentice programme, and while I was in my final year at school I was very unsure and didn’t have an idea of a career path in mind.

One of the main reasons I chose this apprenticeship is because my family, especially my mother, provided me with huge amounts of support that helped me to focus and pursue a job with training.

I started my journey after having a formal interview, which at the time was a bit daunting with one of the Directors and the training manager. I was very interested even more as I heard how many apprentices had gone before me. After completing my interview successfully I was offered a fabrication apprenticeship which I would then work towards getting recognised industry qualifications.

My typical day at Greenfield Engineeering

07.30 – Once I clock-in I’m all prepped with my safety equipment and ready to go, I will firstly check with my team leader on my workload following on from the previous shift. The team leader usually has a work schedule or to do list of what he needs to prioritise. This helps me to be organised and work on the right job. It’s always busy but exciting as we work on so many different jobs!

08.00 – 12.00 – Throughout the morning I complete several fabrication processes and continue to check all first offs produced against the drawing. I will then ask one of my work colleagues to double check all vital dimensions prior to continuing with the production batch. It is also very important to look after the production drawings and ensure that they are always returned to the correct folder and in their rightful place.

12.00 – I usually have lunch at twelve o’clock with the rest of the department. I love feeling part of the team and never feel excluded because I’m an apprentice.

12.30 – After lunch I have a briefing with my team leader who informs me that I will be welding for the rest of the day. I check that the welding bay is clean and tidy and that the extraction is working effectively.

13.00 – 16.00 – Batch welding involves a lot of concentration because of its repetitiveness. It is again vitally important to make sure that when using production aids such as jigs that the first off is thoroughly checked against the drawing to ensure the jig is still conforming to specification, but once checked and a second opinion sought. I can continue with the batch run.

16.00 – It is now time to log onto the MRP system and complete the work orders that I have finished today. It is also time to clean and tidy my workplace in readiness for the second shift to take over.

16.30 – Clock out.

Q&A with Thomas Underwood, our Fabrication & Welding Apprentice

What do you enjoy most about your Apprenticeship?
The part I enjoy most about my job is having some freedom and a great team of engineers around me that encourage and support what I do to help me become better. I feel that my team leader has been a huge help and teaches me about the different aspects of engineering as well as fabrication. I want to get better and hopefully further down the line become a team leader myself. Engineering apprenticeships are really varied and I know I have to put in the hard work. The apprenticeship is brilliant and I have had an excellent time so far. I leave the factory at the end of every day knowing that I’ve achieved something in my job.

Also after working in the fabrication/welding area for four of the days, I will then move into a classroom on the fifth day where I meet up with other students from different companies. It’s interesting to talk to other apprentices about their companies and how they do things differently.

What would you say is your biggest achievement since starting your apprenticeship?
That is easy. My biggest achievement so far and one that I was extremely proud of was when I was awarded the second year Mechanical Engineering Apprentice of the year by my training provider. The presentation evening was held at the Park Hotel – Barnstaple and all my family were there to see me receive this award.

What would you say to someone thinking about applying for an apprenticeship?
Applying for an apprenticeship is one of the best things you can do after leaving school or finishing A-levels. After learning about them myself, I can’t see a better way of gaining qualifications whilst gaining hands on experience and being paid at the same time – “earning and learning!”.

What do you think are the biggest myths about apprenticeships?
That it is a route for somebody not very academic or enthusiastic. This is definitely not the case. It takes a lot of effort and dedication to finish a four year apprenticeship; we learn our qualifications part time and pack what seems like a week’s worth of college learning into one day and then work the other 4 days a week. This can be hard work at times and requires a lot of enthusiasm and commitment to the job but is very rewarding at the end.

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