Charles undertook a Year in Industry (YINI) placement at Rolls-Royce before his final year of college and is now studying a MEng in aerospace engineering at the University of Sheffield.
Charles Jones decided to take a gap year to gain real life work experience as he felt it would “give him a leg up” when he graduates from university.
“This should help differentiate me from the rest of the crowd in a very competitive jobs market,” he explains. “I also wanted to do a placement as the contacts that you make are invaluable - for example when looking for summer work/internships - and to support me if I choose to apply for the company’s graduate scheme. There is, of course, the added bonus of earning some money and I tried to save some of what I earned to fund my university studies.”
Charles found out about YINI through the Headstart [new window] course he attended. He had already been considering taking a gap year so when he heard about YINI he thought it was the perfect solution.
“One application and many, many possibilities for a placement,” he explains.
He was offered and took a placement at Rolls-Royce, where he was given a real challenge to get his teeth into: he was tasked with reducing the cost of manufacturing combustor walls.
His focus was to minimise the cost of consumables when using electro discharge machining (EDM) to cut cooling holes. Nose guide tools used in EDM are costly and prone to wear and damage. Charles quantified the costs of the tooling to the business, and embarked on implementing an alternative manufacturing process for the tools. In the development of the tools, he had to engage with operations, the manufacturing laboratory and suppliers, to ensure that the solution was delivered in a timely fashion to meet the business needs.
He organised and executed the testing of the new nose guide tools and his analysis found that debris generated during the drilling process was causing problems, so he improved the design of the tool geometry, including cut away sections that allowed debris to escape.
Through this work the optimised nose guides operate at the same speed and durability as the old design, but are considerably less expensive to produce: resulting in a 97.5 per cent reduction in unit cost. The reduced production, scrap and rework costs brought about by his design are significant and will save Rolls-Royce over £150,000 per year.
“This placement was brilliant, as I was given not only a major project that ran for the whole year but also different shorter projects throughout,” Charles says.
“I was working in the manufacturing engineering sector of Rolls-Royce, in the capability acquisition department. This department is responsible for developing and utilising novel technologies to aid the manufacture of components. I was treated like any other employee and made to feel really at home.
Being given responsibility and treated as an equal “I thoroughly enjoyed the responsibility of these projects. I was responsible for setting reasonable deadlines and then making sure that I delivered on time. I also supported other parts of the business, with smaller, yet still important tasks. One of the biggest challenges was balancing my time between the projects I was managing and all of the other tasks that other people wanted me to do,” he explains.
Charles’ high point of his YINI experience was meeting lots of new people and therefore making invaluable contacts. He also loved that he was treated as an equal by the other members of his team.
He feels he has gained so much engineering experience from his placement as well as a better understanding of industry and multinational companies like Rolls-Royce.
“I developed my time-management skills and improved my people skills and communication skills through giving presentations to senior engineers and the wider public,” he says.
“I gained experience in reading technically-detailed engineering drawings, understanding the manufacturing process for complex components and I also gained a specific understanding of certain manufacturing processes that my projects concentrated on,” he enthuses.
“I also became more proficient in the use of many computer-based programs and gained a qualification in process control. The placement completely transformed me as a person, from someone that has never had a full-time job to someone that has been to work in often high-pressure situations every day for a year.
“I would recommend a gap year in industry to all engineering students as it provides you with an invaluable amount of real-world experience that cannot be obtained in any other way,” he continues.
“This experience can prove to be the differentiating factor in an ever more competitive graduate jobs market. You need to stand out from the crowd and a placement in industry can help you to do this.
“Also if the company is impressed by you, then it can lead to summer placements, internships and ultimately the possibility of a graduate job. Even if these things don't happen, you have great contacts and references to draw on when applying for other placements and jobs,” says Charles.
Now coming to the end of the first year of his master’s degree Charles has been offered a summer placement back at Rolls-Royce and hopes to further his experiences and develop his relationship with the company.