by Sophie Davison
I am a third year Mechanical Apprentice at Heysham 2 Power Station. I love being involved with as much as possible, I am always up for a challenge and I keep myself busy. Being on the EDF Energy Apprenticeship means I can earn a wage, learn new skills and experience a new place all at once, it is a huge opportunity I feel I have grasped with both hands.
It took me two years to get an apprenticeship, I went to every careers fair you can imagine and applied to 24 apprenticeships overall. Second time lucky I was given the opportunity to be an EDF Energy Apprentice and I don’t regret a second!
It all started for me in September 2014, I went down to Portsmouth and started the first two of four years. This is all about learning the basics of engineering and getting an overview for the three trades; Mechanical, Electrical and Control and Instrumentation (C&I). I was given the mechanical trade and then focused on the practical skills associated with this; we worked on many different pieces of equipment including pumps, valves, diesel engines and filters. This was to complete a NVQ level 2 and BTEC Level 3 down at HMS Sultan.
I worked with the HMS Sultan Super Sentinel Steam Lorry in my spare time, I also completed indoor and outdoor skydiving, indoor snowboarding, French lessons and charity fundraising. It was a busy two years and it made me grow so much as a person, I have since signed up to more skydiving for Breast Cancer Now in June 2017.
The second two of the four years is back on site, where we put the skills we’ve learned into practice, find our way around site and build up confidence. I have started a HNC in Mechanical Engineering at Kendal College and I am looking forward to developing both my practical and theory skills.
I have learned such a lot in a short space of time and I know have so much more to learn! I plan to move around within the teams, I understand there is such a range of experiences and backgrounds from people throughout the station and I hope to get the most out of this.
My Journey to an Apprenticeship –
I went to:
- Carnforth High 2006-11 where I was Head Girl in Year 11
- LGGS 11-13 studying Italian L1, Biology/General Studies AS, Maths/Chemistry/Physics A Level
- Lancaster and Morecambe College 13-14 Engineering Maintenance L3 BTEC
and then the apprenticeship!
I have always been interested in Maths and Science so I knew that was a focus of my future but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. This is why I completed A-Levels at Lancaster Girls Grammar School and went to a range of careers fairs throughout the whole of Lancashire.
I was told by a friend to apply for the EDF Energy apprenticeship and the engineering apprenticeship applications went from there. Overall after 2 years of applying I was offered 3 apprenticeships; Jaguar Land-Rover, EDF Energy and Siemens. I chose EDF because of the amazing life skills opportunities, location and future prospects.
Training within Portsmouth – (cost/extra-curricular activities/social experiences)
The first two years of the apprenticeship is based in Portsmouth at two Navy bases; HMS Sultan for work and HMS Collingwood for living, buses are provided each morning and evening to transfer us from base to base. EDF pay for all accommodation (single rooms within one building with shared bathroom/kitchen and living areas), travel to and from work and also every six weeks or travel home for a long weekend.
Within HMS Sultan there is both theory and hands-on skill based lessons, each apprentice will experience all three trades in year one; mechanical, electrical and control and instrumentation. Lessons are to increase the basic knowledge of engineering and a student’s confidence with a range of tooling. The qualifications awarded in Portsmouth are BTEC L3 in Engineering and NVQ L2, the NVQ L3 is gained by working on site back at the designated station.
There is a range of extracurricular activities put on by EDF Energy including; charity events (such as the Dragonboat races, skydives, cake sales), sports events (EDF football teams), French lessons and I worked with the HMS Sultan Super Sentinel Steam Lorry in my spare time. This was a Navy Charity organised club which was focused on renewing a 1930s Super Sentinel, learning basic mechanical skills and attending steam festivals in the weekends at summer.
I found there was a lot to do within Portsmouth and Southsea and the local area, I completed indoor and outdoor skydiving and indoor snowboarding all to keep myself occupied but there is also a range of nightlife activities. The apprentices down at HMS Collingwood become a close nit group and we regularly went out for meals, this was a nice change from using the food hall on site paid for by EDF Energy.
I felt very privileged to be awarded The ‘Going the Extra Mile (GEM)’ award at the end of my first year of the apprenticeship; this was for being involved with such a range of activities. In second year I was nominated for the GEM award again and I was also nominated for an award with the Young Energy Professionals (YEP), this was such an achievement, I was able to experience EDF Energy meetings and visit other sites.
HNC and Station Life –
Now I have started my third year, I have learned an unbelievable amount of hands-on skills, leadership work by completing Task Performance Evaluations and working as part of a team. Since being back on site I have started my NVQ L3 and, at Kendal College a Mechanical Engineering HNC. Working on station has been such an eye-opener for me; I have worked with people who have an amazing array of knowledge and I have found having a background of the theory has helped immensely.
Future Aspirations –
I plan to focus on my studies for the next 18 months and therefore complete my apprenticeship in July 2018, coming out of my time as a fully qualified Mechanical Technician. I would like to develop my skills, gain experience, knowledge and therefore be classed as a competent technician.
- Country wide – try looking at apprenticeships for companies throughout the country, this will help you find what you would like and then you can narrow it down
- Ask around! Other peoples’ experiences (good or bad) matter too
- Work experience. You might find you enjoy something different to what you thought
- Do you need GCSEs/A Levels/HNC? And how would you get these if you don’t have them?
(This apprenticeship requires five GCSEs at Grade C or above (or Grade 4 and above in the new GCSE grading structure) anything else is extra and will help you)
- Company websites. All questions in interviews on the company can be found here
Good Luck to those applying to this apprenticeship and all of the others, determination and focus will get you what you want!