1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
At 3M i am a mechanical engineering apprentice. I oversee the CRSL labs and give advice and guidance to those needing to use our rapid prototyping equipment. I do this through one to one meeting and liaising with varying team members as well as a lot of email interactions. During my role I can find faults with the equipment that is beyond my capabilities, therefore I communicate with outside companies who have the knowledge to be able to resolve any faults I am experiencing. My main responsibilities are maintain the rapid prototyping equipment, ensure the lab facilities and all those entering that area are adhering to health and safety procedures and policies. Complete in depth risk assessments to highlight any flaws and make people aware of potential risks and hazards. Give technical support to other departments and people who need help, whether this be CAD help or 3D printing help. The job for me is a good experience to learn about the different rapid prototyping techniques but I wish I was able to repair the 3D printers when errors do occur instead of needing someone else to do the work because of health and safety.
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
I will be gaining an NVQ level 3 after my second year which will be a new qualification. I would say that I learn the most from my colleagues around me and by completing varying work tasks as opposed to completing training courses. i work with a variety of different with a multitude of different backgrounds from camera imaging to people who have PHD's in nuclear engineering. We are able to go to some trade shows but these only happen annually, so expanding my knowledge on 3D printers comes from my own self google searching as opposed to visiting a real site.
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
I enjoy the work I do although sometimes it can get repetitive. I feel there is always a new project around the corner so new challenges are always present. The team I work with are very supporting and encouraging and will help you to strive for any achievements. For example I am learning how to read and write python which is something I wouldn't have the motivation to do alone. The company is very diverse and you people from a multitude of educational backgrounds but also from a variety of different countries. 3M is lucky to have business all around the world and people to travel to different locations based on their interests. The work I do can be challenging to put into words that wont breach data protection or confidentiality, so all my assignments and college work has to be approved and checked by my managers. I do enjoy the work, I dont know how far I will go with as I do feel I will reach a point where I stop learning as much and things begin to stagnate out.
4. How valued do you feel by 3M UK?
Until the policies changed I did feel very valued at 3M. We have an internal system where you can give people awards (a money incentive) when they perform to a high standard, they are called star awards. However now 3M arent allowed to give awards to apprentices as the rules changed, so I don't hear any of the positive feedback anymore.
5. How well organised/structured is your programme?
I was given an induction day when I first started by 3M and SEAC. I would say out of everyone my college has been the most supportive, in terms of ensuring i meet my deadline but without applying too much pressure. I am given support by my team leader, he does arrange one to ones with me which are useful. I would say in a whole the programme is structure well however I do feel that I need more time to study, my manager is not happy if I complete college work at work, but sometimes I am not able to finish the work at home so I need sometime during the working day as well. In terms of the team hierarchy I am at the bottom, for example with my team meetings I am only allowed to attend 2 out of the 5 hours because the rest is deemed too confidential. To begin with i thought it was unfair as I didnt feel included but i understand the rules. My programme has been well organised by my colleagues Basingstoke college and Newbury college.
6a. How much support do you receive from your training provider?
I have actually gained another mentor towards the end of my course. I find her to be the most helpful and easiest to talk too. But everyone i work with are very helpful and will give up their time to help you fix a problem. For example I was stuck with a piece of CAD work and a colleague took about 2 hours out of his schedule to help me. I find this support helpful and rewarding because you arent made to feel stupid, they understand that you wont know or have the knowledge about everything.
6b. How much support do you receive from your employer?
I do receive a lot of support, it would be unfair to say i don't. However everyone is always very busy, although they can spare time every now and then it is hard to chat about anything big without arranging it beforehand and arranging a meeting. My new mentor is very good, I wish i had her from the start as she will challenge my views, but in a nice way so instead of telling you your opinion is wrong she will listen and have contradicting statement that will make you think. My mentor gives me a lot of guidance and helps me when I feel in a rut or if i am having a problem with someone at work for example they are being difficult or said something i felt was rude. She will help me address the situation in an appropriate manner as opposed to causing an issue. People don't treat me like an apprentice, on occasions you can be reminded when you dont have access to things but on a whole it is good.
7. How well does your salary/package meet your costs?
With the salary that i am currently on I wouldn't be able to move out of my parents house. I couldn't afford the bills, food and travel to work, all my money would go on rent and I would have nothing left. I do live in Reading which is quite an expensive location to live in for a student.
8. Are there many opportunities outside of work?
There are a lot of social sport activities outside of work. We are privileged to have a gym on sight and it utilised by a lot of the 3M staff. I participate in a lot of STEM events that are held within 3M, the idea is to encourage the younger generation to pursue careers in this field and give them more of an insight and explain the different opportunities. 3M is located in a business park, so around us are other companies such as Dell, Honda, Hp, but volunteer work is completed in the local schools. For me I am quite an introvert so I enjoy relaxing after work with my family.
9. Would you recommend 3M UK to a friend?
The people at 3M are very friendly with vasts amounts of knowledge that they are more than willing to pass on. The environment on the whole is very positive and I feel anyone working here will learn a great amount.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to 3M UK?
I work make sure that the job you are applying for is right for you. 3M has a lot of different departments but they all specialise in one location so it is important to make sure you are applying to the one that best suits your needs. With the interview all I can say is be yourself, it is important to be a team player as you always work within a team and will be working with varying people from different sites and countries. Communication is a big thing at 3M. I think I would have liked to know about the limitations of being an apprentice in this company, there are a lot of event I am not allowed to attend that actually interest me a lot.
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