Andy Fowler

Since completing an apprenticeship at BAE Systems, Andy has followed the company’s ‘Apprentice to Engineer’ personal development plan, which has led to a promotion and EngTech professional registration.

Andy Fowler Andy currently works as a quality engineer at BAE Systems, a role he began in summer 2014. His career began back when he joined the company’s apprenticeship scheme, which was a move away from his original plans to go straight from school to university.

Apprenticeship or university?

Andy was inspired to become an engineer because he felt it would give him the opportunity to make a difference in the world, and that he liked the idea of being challenged to solve real-world problems.

Originally he had applied to go to university, but after listening to his engineering tutor praise apprenticeships, he decided to look into them as a possible alternative.

“When I started to research the opportunities an apprenticeship could give, it became my favoured choice,” he says. “I could gain hands-on experience, earn a competitive wage and receive world class vocational training. I also discovered a lot of companies would also fund you to go on and do a degree. Why would you choose to do anything else?”. 

Andy made the most of his apprenticeship - as well as gaining lots of experience and qualifications he became a founding member of the Industry Apprentice Council (IAC), something he continues to be involved in now.

This group enables apprentices to contribute to national debates on apprenticeships and advise on policy and strategies, and Andy has personally co-chaired a national apprenticeship debate with Matt Hancock, Minister of Business, Enterprise and Energy and taken part in a Parliamentary dinner to discuss US apprenticeships.

From apprentice to engineer

After completing his apprenticeship in 2013, Andy was taken on as an assistant quality engineer in BAE Systems’ Quality Assurance department. He was also put on the company’s two-year ‘Apprentice to Engineer’ scheme.

“The scheme provides targets and half-yearly progress reviews,” Andy explains. “This is really beneficial because it works just like a personal development plan and means I can see exactly what I need to be doing to get to engineer grade, plus my hard work is recognised and rewarded.”

In July 2014 Andy successfully applied for the position of quality engineer, which is a role he’s hugely enjoying.

“A typical day varies so much, and that’s why I love it. My favourite days are probably when I get to work on interesting problems, such as an electro-mechanical flight control system that has just completed qualification testing. I get to see and handle the complete product and liaise with lots of different people, including the customer. Then I oversee the inspections and ensure our work complies with the customer’s contract requirements and any legal aviation organisations.”

Gaining EngTech status

Andy recently gained Engineering Technician (EngTech) professional registration, which he considers the first major milestone of his career. He discovered the importance of professional registration through his work at the IAC.

“The IAC reviewed the engineering and manufacturing industry’s apprenticeship system to see where improvements could be made in ensuring apprenticeships are seen as an equal alternative to university,” he says.

“One of the areas we felt was really important, was that as an apprentice you graduate with a preferably internationally recognised qualification or achievement. This pointed us to professional registration. It would be fantastic if, on completion of their apprenticeship, apprentices gained such a professional status.”

Achieving EngTech means a lot to Andy, but he plans to keep the momentum going. He’s currently working towards gaining a mechanical engineering foundation degree and is mapping out his pathway towards gaining Chartered Engineer status.

“I’m always pushing myself to take on new opportunities and I am never one to sit back and let an opportunity pass me by,” he concludes.