Case study

Ewan Brown — Trials and commissioning engineer apprentice

BAE Systems

After gaining a degree in microbiology Ewan decided on a career change. He’s now an apprentice trials and commissioning engineer apprentice at BAE Systems, working on naval ships

Why did you decide on a career in engineering?

After four years of studying life sciences, I knew that the life science industry was not for me and was keen for a new career path.

I have a long family history in maritime engineering and have always had a personal interest in engineering, so it seemed like the right career change to make.

Why did you opt for an apprenticeship with BAE?

BAE systems produce some of the worlds most advanced defence and security technologies. As an apprentice this gave me the opportunity to work on large, complex engineering projects.

Working on the next generation of Clyde built naval ships for the Royal Navy is an exciting job with historical importance. As I had already done four years of studying, I was keen to get hands-on from day one.

Importantly, I could not afford to go back into education and retrain in a different career. BAE Systems offers well paid apprenticeships that allowed me to make the career change, providing me with the support and education I needed for a long, exciting career.

How did you find and apply for your BAE apprenticeship?

I found out about BAE Systems apprenticeships on Facebook advertisements. From there I visited the early careers page on the BAE Systems website and began researching all the different apprenticeships they offered. Having selected what apprenticeship was best suited to me, I started the application process. I had an aptitude test, video interview and face-to-face interview prior to being offered the job.

Tell us more about the apprenticeship.

Trials and commissioning is a new apprenticeship for BAE. It is a four-year apprenticeship that is a hybrid of education and onsite learning.

During my first year I have completed a PEO Level 2, attending college three days a week with two days in the shipyard working in the trials and commissioning team.

I will do a HNC in marine engineering one day a week over two years, with opportunities to go onto further education afterwards. As such, most of my time will be on-site, learning from the expertise in the shipyard. In addition to the HNC, I will also gain an SVQ3 through the skills and training we obtain thanks to the various training courses BAE Systems provide on-site. After the four years, I will be a qualified trials and commissioning engineer, with the opportunity to progress to more senior roles in time.

What’s a typical working day like for you?

Trials and commissioning is an exciting mix of office-based working and on-ship working. We bring the ship to life, operating the ships equipment for the first time. We run the equipment and test the systems to ensure they meet the design requirements. During sea trials, we operate the ships equipment and put it through its paces, demonstrating to the Royal Navy and legislators that the ships systems and equipment meet their requirements.

As such, I will be a multi-skilled engineer that get to operate equipment such as gas turbines, diesel power plants, electrical switchboards, propulsion motors, HVAC equipment, fire-suppression systems and aviation systems to name a few.

Describe your BAE apprenticeship in three words.

  • hands-on
  • supported
  • exciting.

What part of your apprenticeship have you enjoyed the most?

Getting to work on the next generation of anti-submarine frigates, while being surrounded with great people that are keen to pass on their knowledge and integrate us into the team.

What has been the most challenging?

Due to the overall scale of the engineering project, the documentation and information is spread between various computer software packages. Therefore, getting up to speed on the various computer programmes used in BAE Naval Ships was challenging.

However, asking for help from the expertise around me and being patient has allowed me to pick up and understand the stores of information available.

What three qualities are important in for a career in engineering?

  • having the confidence to ask questions
  • possessing a willingness to learn
  • being able to see problems and implement solutions.

What are your career ambitions?

I look forward to continuing my learning and taking on more responsibilities as the apprenticeship progresses and to playing an important part in delivering the Type 26 frigate programme to the Royal Navy and our overseas partners.

BAE Systems also has a wide range of exciting sectors that I would like to get involved with. The air sector of the business is currently developing the next generation of fighter aircraft under the Tempest programme, so it would be great to be able to take my experience in naval ships and apply it in new ways.

What advice can you give to others considering a BAE apprenticeship?

  • Don’t be discouraged that some apprenticeships are not to a degree level. There will be future opportunities for a fully-funded degree at BAE Systems if you wish to do one. I strongly recommend a BAE modern apprenticeship over going to university, as it provides you with real world work experience and education, all while being paid.
  • Make sure to research the company before an interview and show your interest in the programme.
  • Ask questions about the apprenticeship and career path. You could be starting a multi-year programme, so it is important you ask questions to make sure the apprenticeship is right for you.

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