Bentley offers a sponsored degree apprenticeship programme.
More and more companies - and universities - are working together to create programmes that work for both them as businesses and you as potential future employees, giving you the best of both the academic and practical worlds.
Automotive company Bentley Motors realised one day that they had both an apprenticeship and graduate scheme in place, but nothing that bridged the gap between the two. With this in mind the company decided to create something new.
"We decided that we would look into having our own programme that's aimed at A level students who were interested in beginning a practical career and didn't want to go to university full time," says Julia Gill, attraction and development manager - trainee programmes, at Bentley. "The other reason was so we could 'home grow' our own engineers for the future," she adds.
The company implemented the Sponsored Degree Apprenticeship Programme, a scheme that doesn't follow the national apprenticeship framework, instead giving students who have achieved A levels the chance to come into the business to do a part-time degree on a day release basis alongside their workplace learning.
After a few successful early years, Bentley has now evolved the course to become open to even more interested students. Now named the Junior Engineer Scheme, there are two entry options, as Gill explains.
"You can take two routes depending on your age and experience. For school leavers at 16, with exceptional GCSE grades, there is the chance to go onto obtaining a BTEC and getting practical experience whilst working towards specific NVQs then going on to do a foundation degree, so within six years you'll have a degree.
"Alternatively, the A level students go directly onto the foundation degree which as before, will be topped up to a full degree over a four year period."
Using the process of college / university block release and workplace learning, the junior engineers get to learn their specific skills on the job as well as in a classroom, giving an all rounded career education. Junior engineers are recruited for specific areas which are broken down in to the following, and then are trained to work in those particular areas of the business and obtain either mechanical or electronic engineering degrees depending on their chosen area. These are:
"As an example, this year we recruited two people into our body test department, where they're doing the actual testing of the cars; boots shutting, doors working etc." Gill says.
"But as part of the programme they will go into other areas that relate to that, like the main body engineering, where they are designed and built. Beyond that perhaps they might spend some time in engineering finance, so when they're doing the tests they can think about the budget restrictions or how much they're spending and see a bigger picture of the business."
"They also get to spend time with sales and marketing who look after the customer contacts, maybe do a customer tour and meet customers themselves," Gill continues. "This is important for them to understand the customer feedback, so when they're working on future designs they don't just think from an engineering perspective, but also consider what the customer is interested in," she adds.
Although no job is one hundred per cent secure post-apprenticeship, Bentley's intention is to hold on to each of the engineers it trains as they have been home grown to understand the business, the job, and the company. In a day and age where many people move from company to company within a period of a few years, Bentley offers instead the chance to begin a long term career within the company, offering amazing education and experience opportunities along the way.