Ashleigh is engineering her future

In my final year of GCSEs I knew that college was not the next step for me.

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I wanted to leave school and do something that was interesting and hands on; a place where I could get experience in the working world.

I had come across AWE through Teen Tech, where engineering companies showcase what they do, when I was thirteen.

Due to my inspiring experience with the company I decided that an AWE apprenticeship was definitely the best step forwards, thus the start of my research.

I found the AWE website and navigated my way through the apprenticeship opportunities, at this time there were only engineering apprenticeships available. The thought of going into an industry that I have no experience of was daunting!

I studied drama, philosophy and music for GCSE, what could an engineering company possibly gain from me? I applied anyway.

The trade I decided to apply for was mechanical maintenance. Why? Because I think it is fascinating finding out what’s really behind all the machines we use and learning about how they work. A lot of the work is applicable in everyday life, such as knowing how a clutch works when learning to drive.

During the application process I had to complete a few tests which assessed my maths, English and my basic mechanical understanding. After passing the tests I was invited to an interview day. I had never done a job interview before so the experience was both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

I was scared to start working because I assumed everyone in the apprenticeship probably had prior engineering experience, making myself the odd one out. But I was wrong. Yes, there were other apprentices who knew a lot more than I did, but the instructors are so supportive that it did not take long for me to find my feet and really begin enjoy working.

There is an extremely large amount of knowledge that you can gain from the instructors at AWE, they really help you understand the work you are doing.

My first year I spent working on the lathes and mills, where I learnt how to machine a variety of components from simple things like a washer to a vee block. Now I am working on maintenance tasks, my next being stripping and assembling a pillar drill.

Not only do you complete engineering tasks but you have the opportunity to get involved in a variety of outreach activities to further develop your people skills. I have been to events like career fairs and females into engineering, I have even had the privilege of attending two gala dinners.

The outreach events have made me a more confident person and allowed me to network.

Lastly, the environment I work in is probably one of the best I have ever experienced. I work with an amazing year of apprentices who once were strangers, but are now good friends and, dare I say, even family.

Ashleigh Barbour is an apprentice with AWE