Case study

Degree apprentice — Robert McFadden

Robert did a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Engineering at Runshaw College before embarking on a degree apprenticeship with BAE Systems

Why did you choose to do a degree apprenticeship?

The idea of being drowned in debt and unable to secure a job after graduation wasn't appealing in the slightest. So a degree apprenticeship where I worked towards a paid-for degree with a job at the end of it made perfect sense to me. I also wanted to work in various teams across BAE Systems, gaining invaluable experience at a world-leading aerospace defence company.

How did you find and apply for your degree apprenticeship?

I found it through BAE Systems' careers website. The application window opens at the start of November and closes at the end of February for the September intake.

How does the degree apprenticeship work?

BAE Systems offers two degree apprenticeships. One is the Aerospace Software Development Engineering apprenticeship, a four-year programme with two days a week studying at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and three days on eight-month placements at Warton and Samlesbury. The other is the Aerospace Engineering programme, a five-year apprenticeship with day release at Blackpool and The Fylde College and six-month placements at Warton and Samlesbury.

What do you enjoy the most?

One of the best parts of the apprenticeship is working in different placements from simulation to flight testing. I'm currently working on the F-35 programme in the Offboard Mission Support team, producing mission planning code and testing mission planning features. I have also worked in the Modelling and Testing Environment team, where I produced a digital Multifunction Heads Down Display (MHDD) for the Eurofighter Typhoon cockpit team.

Doing different placements lets you learn from colleagues who are experts in the field, and gain insights you can only get from real-world experience. There are also plenty of chances to work abroad, work all over the country, and participate in all kinds of development opportunities.

What is the most challenging part?

The most challenging aspect is time management. I'm currently studying for a degree, a Level 4 NVQ qualification and completing work placement tasks. I soon figured out a way of managing my time well and quickly enjoyed the rewards.

What are your plans for after your degree apprenticeship?

I plan on staying at BAE Systems, moving around the company in different roles and learning as much as I can. I'm also looking forward to working abroad with the Eurofighter Typhoon or the F-35 programme.

What advice would you give to anyone planning to do an apprenticeship?

Do your research to learn about the company you're applying to. Make sure you're doing all you can to make your application the best it can be - having a part-time job, completing a Duke of Edinburgh Award and volunteering are all great things to have on your application. Spend as much time on your application as you can, don’t rush it.

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