Case study

Aeronautical engineer — Kate Seymour

Kate 'topped up' her foundation degree to a BSc in aircraft engineering, and now she's working as a graduate engineer at Lockheed Martin

What foundation degree did you study?

Aerospace Engineering (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) Foundation Degree (FdEng) at Kingston University. The course was based at the Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group (Marshall ADG) AeroAcademy in Cambridge.

Why did you choose this course?

I was attracted by the programme's association with Marshall ADG. I was looking for a truly hands-on course, and I wasn't disappointed. The degree also, pleasingly, was designed to give students the knowledge required to take the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) exams and gain maintenance licences.

What did your course involve?

Topics included materials and hardware, human factors and aviation legislation, electronics, propulsion, maintenance practices, aerospace workshops and turbine aircraft. In the workshops, we were taught practical hand skills such as riveting, patch repairs, and cutting and filing. In the final year, we worked on large turboprop engines in workshops. We also took part in problem solving, part replacement and defect investigation.

What work experience did you undertake during your foundation degree?

During the first year I worked at Colton Aviation, where I learned how to maintain light aircraft. I then spent the next two years at Andy McLuskie Engineering, helping restore and maintain vintage aircraft. Two examples even made it to the Goodwood Revival. Then, after my foundation degree ended in 2013, I spent the summer at Marshall ADG's design office as part of the mechanical and fluid systems department.

Why did you decide to 'top up' your foundation degree?

While at Marshall ADG, I realised I wanted to work in a design office. However, this required me to study for a BSc or BEng, so 'topping up' became the obvious choice. The extra year also saw me study a range of interesting topics that I hadn't previously covered.

What did you do after you graduated?

I went straight into Lockheed Martin's engineering graduate scheme in September 2014, which I wouldn't have been eligible for without 'topping up'. I take part in rotations to get involved with different aspects of engineering at the company. I'm currently a human factors engineer on specialist vehicles.

What other sectors could you now enter as a result of 'topping up'?

It has certainly opened up my options. Even though my degree was aircraft-related, I could now find work in industries including Formula 1, land systems, aerospace and oil. A lot of the principles are transferable. In the future, I'd like to improve my engineering knowledge and possibly go into management. I'd love to become an engineering director or CEO one day.

What advice do you have for foundation degree students thinking of 'topping up'?

Go for it. It's difficult and stressful but, if you're willing to put the work in, it's incredibly rewarding. Make sure you pick a dissertation subject that you find exciting and have faith in yourself: the 'top up' requires you to be a much more independent learner, so throw yourself into it. Finally, never underestimate the power of networking.