Neither my school nor my parents really knew about apprenticeships, let alone advocated them as a career option! The result was that their guidance steered me towards university – and it wasn't the right choice for me. I left my Mechanical Engineering degree with a diploma after realising that I wanted to be involved with engineering but not as an engineer (a little peculiar I know!). I wanted to help manage engineering projects instead, putting the knowledge I had to good use by ensuring that big ideas could be translated into tangible successes. So I researched plenty of blue chip companies' career entry options, and that led me to BAE Systems' project management apprenticeship scheme. My parents were sceptical at first, but when I told them that the scheme I had found meant I'd be getting a degree, they were quickly on board. It shows that they valued the qualification as an outcome and I'm willing to bet many parents are of the same mind for their children. Those who graduate from the scheme I'm on get the same degree as someone who has gone down the university route and, as well as this, get a salary and a variety of work experience; I've already worked on projects involving dockyard maintenance, ship modifications and test equipment for manufacturing.
I have found project management to be a lot about interacting with people, and that's what I enjoy – so being in work while I learn is the perfect mix for me. It motivates me to reach my potential in a way I wouldn't have if I'd have stuck with the Mechanical Engineering degree course. I'm not an engineer by trade, but engineering is my passion. 2018's Year of Engineering will showcase how thousands of apprentices in the engineering sector, in STEM roles and others, are helping the sector to flourish. There's so much choice in the engineering industry and, whatever your job role, it's an interesting and varied sector in which to work. I'm living proof that apprenticeships are a fantastic way to start a career in engineering, whatever job role you're interested in, and I will spend my Year of Engineering making that case to as many potential future project managers as I can.