Engineering is a developing industry, with new skills and processes constantly being established. The same is true for talent in the sector, with more businesses opting to hire apprentices and then mould their skills from within the organisation. Here, Miguel Millan, apprentice design engineer at precision drive system manufacturer Electro Mechanical Systems Ltd, discusses his apprenticeship experience.
I’ve worked as an apprentice at Electro Mechanical Systems (EMS) for over four years. My current role is as an apprentice draughtsman, which means that I support the design team to draft engineering diagrams for new components we are producing for our clients.
Normally, I shadow the more experienced members of the team and help them with their projects. The team will work with the client to establish the design concept, whether it be for small components or the entire finished product. I then work on drafting the design ready for production.
Over the years, my skills have improved significantly, and I am now beginning to have more design responsibilities and have even had a few projects of my own to work on.
Most of the work I carry out uses 3D CAD, which, as any engineer will know, is a powerful and really useful piece of design software. The great thing about working with CAD is that it has numerous ways to do the same thing, so it feels like with every design I am learning something new.
Before joining EMS, I worked on an assembly line building pneumatic pumps and was looking to broaden my career prospects. I initially applied for a different role at the company. However, from my application the management team at EMS recognised that I had experience with technical drawing and offered me a place in the design team.
What attracted me to start an apprenticeship with EMS is that, because it is a small team, there was huge potential to grow and become an integral part of the business. Also, the work we carry out is typically for advanced and high quality applications across a variety of industries, which means the design work is incredibly varied and allows me to learn from a host of different industry sectors.
Additionally, because the work I am doing is so hands-on and directly impacting the work we do with customers, I am developing my skills much faster than I would be if I were learning solely in a classroom environment.
I have worked on a number of interesting projects during my time here. One that stands out involved a design for a gearbox with two rotary shafts that have brushes on them. This mechanism was for a client’s product that cleans cows’ udders after milking on dairy farms — it was a complex shape and one of my first ever designs.
Another project was a driving mechanism I designed for a wooden shutter blind that worked so that if one of the wooden slats is turned, they all turn together. The mechanism can be controlled from your phone or tablet, and the whole system was about the size of your index finger so required an in-depth level of detail.
The design team is always looking to challenge me and help me improve. Since I started in this role, I have developed from simply scanning in drawings to completing my own design projects. I’m now finishing my Higher National Certificate, and with the support of EMS, I will soon start studying mechanical design at the University of Bournemouth.
Because the engineering sector is so varied, I feel like many young people growing up don’t truly understand what opportunities the industry, and particularly apprenticeships, can provide.
I believe apprenticeships provide huge benefits to both the employee and the organisation. Not only does the apprentice have the opportunity to learn and develop new skills, all while earning a wage, but the business is able to teach and instil the skills and aptitudes that will directly benefit their business and customers.
The constant developments in the engineering and manufacturing industry mean that training the next generation of skilled engineers should be at the forefront of the minds of industry leaders and business owners. Integrating apprenticeships into your staff structure is an ideal way of ensuring you have the right staff, with the right skills, at the right time.