Consider vocational learning, says apprentice

2 mins read

An award-winning female apprentice has urged young people to consider the vocational learning route when they receive their GCSE and A-Level results over the next week.

Maria Collins, who works at the Fradley site of Birmingham-based IMI Precision Engineering, believes that apprenticeships offer school or college leavers a fantastic way to accelerate their careers and earn whilst they are learning towards a possible degree.

The 21-year-old trainee engineer is confident that this path should no longer be seen as ‘the last resort’ and points to recent figures from her Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ training provider In-Comm Training that it could represent a £100,000 opportunity, which equates to the combined amount an apprentice earns in wages and the debt they avoid on tuition fees if deciding to go to university.

She has just completed a three-year apprenticeship in mechanical engineering and is now setting her sights on securing a degree whilst developing her practical skills at the world leader in fluid power and motion controls.

“I saw a lot of my older friends get their degrees and then struggle to find jobs so I thought I’d take a look at doing something vocational that would have a position at the end of it,” explained Maria, who was named as the ‘Outstanding Learner of the Year’ at the In-Comm Training Awards in June (pictured). “It has been a great decision. I’d completed some part-time work in manufacturing alongside my A-Levels, so knew that was the career I wanted and was fortunate enough to be accepted by IMI Precision Engineering to complete an apprenticeship.”

Maria was the only female engineer on her course, but this did not stop her from leading from the front, quickly becoming just one of the group due to her hard work and natural aptitude for engineering. She will be looking to start full-time as a trainee Engineer and will be responsible for supporting the technical sales team and the development of CAD/circuit design, panels and full systems - a different challenge every day.

Maria, who also completed a BTEC to enhance her technical knowledge, went on to add: “Longer-term I want to work towards becoming a Chartered Engineer and hopefully move up the career ladder. I’m not looking to be MD or anything, I prefer the more hands-on practical roles. I’m also passionate about getting more girls to consider a career in engineering and visited Westminster to discuss this with MPs earlier this year.”

IMI Precision Engineering, which employs nine apprentices as part of its 285-strong workforce on Fradley Park in Lichfield, is a passionate advocate of developing new talent to ensure that skills get passed down from its more experienced employees.

It invests heavily in its apprenticeship and graduate schemes. Globally, there are 59 apprentices, 61 graduates (another 25 starting in September) and 32 interns employed in a host of roles ranging from Design Engineers and Prototype Toolmakers to CNC Machine Setters, Maintenance and Production.

Sarah Middleton, Communications Manager at IMI Precision Engineering, concluded: “We need the right people in the business and the best way of achieving this is to develop young people. We work with them to attain the skills they need and create a nurturing culture from the outset.

“Apprenticeships and our graduate programme are a fantastic way to achieve this, whilst balancing the age demographic across our workforce. Also the sky is the limit - a number of our senior international management team started with us as apprentices and subsequently have gone on to play a major role in the running of the global business.”