We speak to Paul about the career change that led him to a nuclear degree apprenticeship at Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) with the Ministry of Defence.
A nuclear degree apprenticeship sounds very exciting! How did you become an apprentice with DE&S?
After finishing my Highers, I had planned to go to university, but was seduced into the world of work instead. I went into property development where I worked with my hands and tools to create beautiful homes.
After a while, I decided to develop my skillset so I took a career change and retrained as a commercial diver. I found it challenging, and enjoyed undertaking sophisticated engineering work in environments that could sometimes be dangerous.
When I realised that work opportunities in this specialist area were becoming scarce, I started to look for a permanent role in an organisation that would offer both an intellectual and challenging career. The DE&S Degree Apprenticeship Scheme had exactly what I wanted.
Most apprentices come straight out of school – did that put you off?
As I had some work experience, I was initially discouraged by the word “apprenticeship” and the perceived stigma attached, but I soon realised that this route would enable me to become a debt-free engineering graduate by studying on the job.
What attracted you to the DE&S Scheme?
My parents worked for the Ministry of Defence (MOD), so I grew up knowing a little bit about it and I knew I would have the opportunity to work on a diverse range of cutting edge engineering management projects supporting ships, aircraft and land equipment programmes. The headquarters is in Bristol, but there are numerous sites around the UK, so there’s plenty of opportunity to travel.
What sort of training does DE&S provide?
As well as on-the-job training, I am studying for a BEng degree in Mechatronics at Bridgwater College covering materials, manufacturing, design and electronic principles. The opportunities are amazing.
I have recently completed a team building exercise on an Outwardbound expedition at Dartmoor, where we did mountain biking, rock climbing and a two-day hike. It was great – we used lots of the skills we have learned including delegation and planning to both push ourselves and bond as a team.
What advice would you offer to anyone considering an apprenticeship?
If you are looking for an opportunity to combine study and work experience this is the perfect route for you. University education is not for everyone, but this enables you to get degree qualifications with the benefit of work experience at the same time. If you’re considering a career change, it’s also great and I’ve gained so much from it.
DE&S is part of the Ministry of Defence and is responsible for the procurement of all Her Majesty’s Armed Forces’ equipment. For more information about DE&S, the DE&S Degree Apprenticeship Scheme and how to apply, as well as case studies from former apprentices, visit www.gov.uk