1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
I am a Materials Laboratory Apprentice (previously known as Specialist Science). We go on 3-6 month placements at various business sites, so duties vary depending on the placement.
In manufacturing areas, duties generally including monitoring and improving special processes like etching, cleaning, heat treatment, welding etc, and also dealing with out of specification components.
In materials areas, duties generally include materials testing and analysis, tribology, failure investigation studies and supporting in service issues.
Both placement types include general laboratory work such as sample preparation and analysis.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
I am currently studying towards a funded degree in materials engineering. I have been on a wide variety of internal training courses, including use of cranes, risk assessment, use of HF acid, business improvement techniques. At the start of the apprenticeship I received training in manufacturing techniques such as turning, milling, cnc machining and welding, which was a good background for the work I am being trained to do (whilst laboratory apprentices are never involved in the physical production of components, they often have to evaluate the quality of features such as welds)
The apprenticeship has been very good at improving skills such as communication and presentation to team members and a wider audience.
I have picked up a wealth of experience in the design and manufacture of gas turbine engines, particularly with regard to advanced alloys and critical rotating parts.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
The placements I have been on have all been excellent, with team members always happy to assist and transfer their knowledge. I have been given lots of opportunities to work on real business problems, with a degree of autonomy, and I feel that I have had a significant impact as a result. Some of my work is now being used by Rolls Royce sites globally.
4. How valued do you feel by Rolls-Royce?
I have received lots of internal recognition for my work. Placement managers are proactive in delivering feedback to my training manager. There is a mechanism for capturing their feedback at the end of each placement.
Apprentices are often involved in real world problems, and listened to - I feel that my opinion on matters is taken into account when making decisions.
The company has gone on to offer me a full time position within the business.
5. How well organised/structured is your programme?
The materials laboratory program was largely new, and as such there were significant changes on-going when I joined. This led to confusion in some cases. However, we were always able to question things and things have ultimately worked out well.
Now several years in the experience for new hires should be more consistent and clear, with better management. Regular meetings are organised with training managers, who provide good support.
6a. How much support do you receive from your training provider?
My degree was run by Sheffield Hallam university. The first year of this was poorly run (the fault of the university not Rolls Royce). Things have since improved significantly, with the university using different lecturers for the 2nd and 3rd years.
New hires will have their training delivered by a different university so it is hard to comment on the experience they will receive.
6b. How much support do you receive from your employer?
Each apprentice is assigned a training manager known as an ADL. This manager has regular meetings with the apprentice to ensure things are progressing well and to capture any issues with placements or training. They assist in the recruitment process at the end of the apprenticeship.
Generally support has been good, with the staff members helpful
7. How well does your salary/package meet your costs?
The starting salary was relatively competitive, albeit lower than some rival companies. This has risen throughout the course of the apprenticeship - there are 4 apprentice pay stages in total.
Once into the 2nd pay stage I found that the salary comfortably met my travel and living costs. The company is well located in Derby so should be convenient to access. Any travel outside of Derby is funded by expense reimbursement.
8. Are there many opportunities outside of work?
As I live a distance from derby I generally do not get involved with activities outside of work. For those that want to there is a good community of apprentices that regularly organise social events. The AGA apprentice graduate association also organises events.
9. Would you recommend Rolls-Royce to a friend?
IT is a great company to work for, providing a unique opportunity to gain experience in the design and manufacture of gas turbines. No other UK company offers this experience - all rival engine manufacturers are located abroad.
The company is very supportive of apprentices and endeavours to find full time roles for them after the apprenticeship.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to Rolls-Royce?
Learn about the basics of how a gas turbine engine works before your interview. Also be prepared to talk about hobbies you have that may be related to engineering, science or teamwork. Be prepared for team tasks. Participate fully in these but don't attempt to take over or dominate.
Aim to arrive early on the assessment day so you are not stressed.
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