Lydia Feasey is in the third year of her apprenticeship at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. She is learning new mechanical and electrical engineering skills as she tries out different roles through the placement system.
Lydia Feasey completed her GCSEs and didn't know what career she wanted, so went on to study A levels in ICT, Product Design and Physics, as well as an AS level in Geography. She loved everything about product design; finding a problem to solve, carrying out research, coming up with solutions, developing ideas and manufacturing a product.
Deciding she didn't want to go to university, she began to look into apprenticeships as a way to start working and earning money whilst still continuing her education. She applied for a few different apprenticeships but took the offer from Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) because it was such a big site and the work seemed so varied; "there seemed to be a lot of opportunity in the organisation to go as far as you wanted in many different areas," she explains.
There were hundreds of applicants and only four apprenticeships available so there was a fairly long application process.
"ISIS Training Ltd helps to match up potential apprentices with companies, so initially I had to go to them to do some basic knowledge tests. I also had to do a Burbeck test and various interviews to get to know more about the organisation and to help them find out about my engineering knowledge and skills," she says.
Feasey is now beginning the third year of her four year mechanical engineering advanced apprenticeship. The first six months of the apprenticeship are spent at college learning basic mechanical and electrical skills. After that apprentices have to complete ten different training placements around site over three years. They then get to choose the placement they enjoyed most and complete their fourth year being trained in that department.
"Day-to-day you spend time with your placement supervisors and other people in the department learning new skills and completing jobs," she says. "You also have to complete log books of all your work in each placement. The placements vary a lot from being in a design office to being in a mechanical workshop or working with an installation team, fitting parts to one of the fusion reactors."
Feasey joined the IET at the start of her apprenticeship.
"The organisation feels that it is a good way for apprentices to find out information, create contacts with people in the industry and find out about events," she explains. "Membership has allowed me to find out about events happening in my area, skills and qualifications required for different jobs for the future, research and recent news. Student membership is good for career guidance and to find out about other apprentices/students who have been in a similar situation, what choices they made and where it got them."
"The best thing about an apprenticeship is that you can gain experience that you can use in your future career, as well as continue your education at college or university and earn money whilst you're doing it," Feasey notes. "I find that as long as you are willing to learn people always find the time to teach you what they know and pass on their knowledge. The only downside is that you are at work everyday while your friends may be off having fun at university," she adds.
Feasey's initial plans are to finish her apprenticeship and complete a Foundation Degree and then an Honours Degree in Mechanical Engineering.
"I enjoy practical work more than office work, so although I'd like to become a supervisor/manager one day I'd like to try and stay doing hands-on work as part of a team as well. I enjoy installation and maintenance as well as research and development," she says.