Some people have always known what they want to be when they grow up, but many of us don't. And, as you approach the end of your school years, choosing a career path can be difficult, as there are so many options available to you.
One possibility you might not have considered is a career in mechanical engineering. If you go down this route, you'll develop a highly valued skillset that will almost definitely guarantee you a job — and with an attractive salary to boot!
There are typically two ways to get your foot in the door when it comes to mechanical engineering: you could study the subject at university, or you could secure an apprenticeship in the industry, which is what I decided to do. I would recommend this route to anyone looking to become a mechanical engineer, as it allows you to get plenty of hands-on experience, and will usually give you the best chance of walking straight into a job.
Here, I'm going to explain why I'm happy to have done a mechanical engineering apprenticeship, and why you should consider applying for one too.
There is an engineering skills gap
The UK is suffering from a skills shortage in key engineering sectors, including mechanical engineering, according to EngineeringUK's 2017 synopsis and recommendations. This means that our industry is crying out for more trained workers and, as a result, there are plenty of vacancies just waiting to be filled by intelligent and ambitious young people like you!
There's always going to be a need for mechanical engineers, which means, once you're fully trained and have made contacts within the sector, you should never have to worry about being out of work. Because of the skillset you'll develop during your apprenticeship and in the years after you've completed it, you'll always be able to find companies that are interested in employing you.
You'll be able to learn on the job
As I previously mentioned, you can study mechanical engineering at university, but I chose to go down the apprenticeship route. This is because I knew it would give me a lot more hands-on experience. While I did spend some time studying in a classroom, I also got to work in a real environment, alongside people who already had the jobs I wanted.
The on-the-job training I was given at Chemoxy was key to my development, and set me up to accept a full-time job with the company once I'd completed two years of training. I also learned a lot about how companies work, what kind of roles I might be able to apply for throughout my career, and how I could best fit into a workforce. I'm not sure I would have gained all of this from a university course.
There are jobs available across the world
The UK isn't the only place crying out for more engineers: almost every nation needs our expertise. So, once you're fully trained, you could apply for jobs anywhere in the world, as plenty of overseas companies will be happy to welcome you into their workforce. This means that, if you've always dreamed of living and working abroad, becoming a mechanical engineer could open this door for you in a big way.
Across the globe, there are exciting projects being worked on all of the time. And, you won't be confined to those based in the UK. As a mechanical engineer, if you see something overseas that you would absolutely love to work on, you could actually be given the chance.
You'll develop a varied and valuable skillset
Mechanical engineers are often considered to be jacks-of-all-trades, but in the best way possible. In this industry, you have to be able to develop an in-depth knowledge of a lot of things. For example, you'll need a working knowledge of maths, physics, computer applications, and electricity. And, you'll need to develop an understanding of the social, environmental, and economic impacts of our work. A mechanical engineering apprenticeship can go a long way to teaching you all of this, and is where I picked up the majority of my knowledge.
Being able to learn on the job won't just teach you a lot about the way the world works: it will also help you to develop your technical skills. If this is what you're looking for in your next step after school, securing a mechanical engineering apprenticeship could be the perfect choice for you.
It's a very exciting time for the industry
It's incredibly exciting to work within the mechanical engineering industry, because you get to be at the forefront of huge developments, and can learn about ground-breaking projects before anyone else.
In particular, the demand for alternative energy sources, new medicines, and more efficient and eco-friendly machinery has never been higher. And, getting to be a part of the work that's going on behind the scenes is incredibly rewarding. If you would like to work in an important and powerful industry that is constantly changing and improving the way the world works, securing a mechanical engineering apprenticeship is the best place to start.
Getting a mechanical engineering apprenticeship at Chemoxy was a fantastic move for me. It gave me invaluable experience, and helped me to secure a full-time job that I'm incredibly proud of. If you're interested in maths, science, and learning about the way the world works, it's bound to be a great step for you, too.
Adam Bytheway is a mechanical technician at Chemoxy International, one of Europe's largest contract manufacturers. He started a mechanical engineering apprenticeship with the company in 2014, and was offered a full-time job in 2016. Here, he explains why you should consider taking a similar career path.