Samantha Katanda – Aerospace Engineering Degree Apprentice – BAE Systems

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Up until I did work experience in Year 11 I was almost certain that I wanted to go into finance – this changed however after I realised how dull it could be. In year 12 I took part in the Engineering Education Scheme and my team’s project won the award for the ‘Best Overall Project ‘at the East Midlands Big Bang Fair. It was at this point that I decided that I wanted to go into engineering, I like the flexibility of engineering and the fact that 1 problem can have multiple solutions.

During Sixth form I was on the fence about whether to go to University or do an Apprenticeship, I knew that I wanted to do engineering but I just wasn’t sure which type or how to get into it.

Initially I went to University to study manufacturing engineering; this however was during lockdown. I found that I wasn’t particularly fond of being in constant online lectures; so I decided to swap and do a 5 year Aerospace Engineering Degree Apprenticeship. This was a difficult decision to make at the time as there was a lot of uncertainty and I was scared of making the wrong decision.

I am now in my 2nd year and I can confirm that I made the right decision for me. I don’t feel that my time at University was wasted as it helped me to realise that I prefer hands-on learning.

At the start of my apprenticeship I spent a number of months at the Aircraft Maintenance Academy where I had the opportunity to develop basic hand skills e.g. using saws, drills, riveting guns and the like. After this point we do 6 placements that are five months long and then a final 2 year placement.

I am currently in my 2nd placement in what’s known as structures. Structures encompasses a broad spectrum of areas – the area I am in revolves around Fatigue management.

Apprenticeship Benefits

Hand-on practical skills / learning – It’s been so nice to learn while I’m working because I have been able to put what I’m learning into action in my placements. At the Aircraft Maintenance Academy I had the opportunity to practice maintenance work on one of the aircraft in the hangar – this was really beneficial because my first two placements have been centred on that model of aircraft and I’ve been able to understand a lot more as I have seen it in person.

BAE Invests in their people – All the instructors, line manager and skills coaches that I have encountered thus far have been really supportive and focussed on helping me succeed. There are plenty of people to go to if I need any additional support.

Extra-curricular opportunities – As part of a team building initiative as apprentices we get the opportunity to go on outward bound. This was a nice experience for me as I got to network with other apprentices and we also got to know our skills coaches. As a STEM ambassador I’ve had opportunities to help facilitate work experience programmes for secondary school students. There have also been multiple opportunities to help with up and coming technology in the company.

One of the best things about apprenticeships is that there are so many opportunities to broaden your professional network and meet different individuals within the company and outside.

Go for it, this is the time to make decisions, there is no wrong choice. Every decision you make is just another step on the path to where you want to be. You might start an apprenticeship and decide it’s not for you or you might do an apprenticeship and love it, either way you learn something.

(Both of the pictures are from outward bound, the first one is of one of the activities I did with my team. The second one is of my whole team on outward bound)