Thursday, 9 June 2016

A Day in the Life of an Apprentice

A typical day as an apprentice at Culham varies from place to place, as each department is very different. As a mechanical engineering apprentice, I visit many different and fascinating departments with the site, each offering new skills and technologies to learn. My current placement is with the new Materials Research Facility, configuring their microscopes to inspect small samples remotely as they will be in a hot cell.

Usually, my day consists of taking precision measurements from inside of the radioactive hot cell to continue with my project modelling. I use this to make a 3D representation of the microscopes using Computer Aided Drawing.

Being part of a large organisation means that we have several other apprentices on site to meet up with to discuss the different exciting projects we are carrying out. We have a great sense of community and often get involved in extra projects together.

As an apprentice, it’s important to spread the message that apprenticeships are not a second choice or for the less academic. Many of the outreach activities we carry out in schools and at events emphasize the fact that there are apprenticeships available for every level in almost every job you can imagine. It is important to show young people what they are capable of and running small workshops can be really effective in giving them that first step. We also invite schools to our site to conduct tours of the JET facility to show them the science and engineering behind fusion reactors to inspire them.

Being in an engineering environment can often mean I’m in a male dominated department, which can sound daunting to younger females entering the industry; however, my colleagues and supervisors are all extremely helpful and friendly and treat me no differently from anyone else. It encourages and motivates me to work hard to show that I am capable of doing the same tasks as any other employee on site.

Women are becoming more present in engineering and technician jobs, especially on Culham site, and we often support each other and share our experiences. Culham was awarded the Bronze Athena Swan award to recognise the efforts to improve gender equality.

Every day at work is different and can have unexpected problems which means there’s always an exciting challenge around the corner. Engineering is always growing and developing, which means there will always be something new to learn and get involved with on site.

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