Amy Lauder is in her third year of a four-year Level 6 graduate apprenticeship with aerospace company Leonardo. She will qualify with a BEng (Hons) in Engineering: Design and Manufacture from the University of Strathclyde.

A graduate apprenticeship can be a great choice to help you transition from education to work

I knew I definitely wanted to do something STEM-related. I was going down the university route, applying for engineering courses, but a friend who was a year above me at school was working at Leonardo as an apprentice and loved it.

My mum looked on the website and found the graduate scheme. A lot of my teachers thought it was too good to be true, but it’s the best of both worlds – getting experience as well as a university degree.

The application process is thorough, but tailored towards school-leavers

I had to write a CV and answer questions about teamwork and leadership. Ask your school careers supervisors for help writing your CV; they know what to look for. When I got through that, I had to do English and Maths online tests, and then I was invited to an assessment centre.

You had to prepare a presentation on something STEM-related. I decided to do it on my Graphic Communication portfolio from my National 5 and Advanced Higher. I also had to go for an interview with two engineers in the business. They were two ex-apprentices, so they understood the situation you were in.

There were a lot of team building exercises - to see how you work with others. And there were a couple of tests that were against the clock.

As soon as I got the phone call I cried, because I was so happy I’d actually managed to get in.

Placements are varied, with plenty of time to focus on academic work

You go through a few days of settling in, learning about the company, etc. You also get to meet all the other apprentices in your year groups. My apprentice community is great. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on the student experience, because there’s a similar apprentices community.

We get six different placements of four months each. I studied CAD - graphic design - and had my heart set on mechanical engineering, but when I went to that placement I didn’t think it was for me.

I then went to the hardware placement and really enjoyed it - learning how to code and using systems - so that’s where I’ve ended up going. I’m now a full time quality assurance engineer.

We have three days for working and two days set aside for university studies. We also get to do a lot of work with the community. I want to inspire more young women into engineering and STEM roles, so for me it’s a great opportunity.

Engineering apprenticeships are a great choice right now; particularly for women

One of the best decisions I made with this apprenticeship is being able to work in all the different departments. In terms of women in STEM, there’s been a massive improvement since I’ve been here. I was the only female in my year group for this specific course, but the year below me the majority of candidates were women.

If you’re considering a career in engineering, just do it.

If you’re deciding between university and an apprenticeship, go for the apprenticeship. You won’t be in student debt. You’re getting paid to do this degree, work and gain the experience.

Leonardo’s top tips when applying for an apprenticeship with them

  • be clear and concise on your qualifications, skills, experience and reasons for applying
  • research Leonardo and your chosen career path
  • practise your interview skills
  • before the interview, make a list of the questions you might be asked and work out how you’d respond with examples
  • ask questions when given the opportunity. Go on the Leonardo website, find out what we do and then ask more about it in the interview. It shows you’ve done your homework