Solving Problems - The Apprentice

Rob Jay, Apprentice Engineer, talks about his apprenticeship journey so far and his future goals as an engineer.

What made you want to get into engineering and why Fundamentals particularly?

Helping people is important to me. We face a number of challenges globally and engineering will be key in addressing them. I gravitated towards solving problems during childhood; my Grandfather was an engineer and since learning in his workshop I have been designing, building and fixing things ever since. Having decided to pursue engineering as a profession I wanted to be part of a business where I could perform several roles; Fundamentals is unusual in that it designs, manufactures and installs its equipment so it was a perfect fit. My time at Fundamentals has afforded me a broad experience base on which to build a career and allows me to work alongside other professionals with a range of skillsets.

Tell us about your apprenticeship

I spent a large portion of my adult life working towards a career in clinical psychology but began to feel I would find engineering more rewarding. I decided to complete an apprenticeship as a way to enter engineering at the ground floor and build on the skills I gained earlier in life.

Over the first two years of my apprenticeship I gained a BTEC in electronic and electrical engineering as well as qualifications in hands-on skills such as mechanical maintenance and PLC programming. At work I spent the first year learning to build and wire electrical control panels which provided skills I use regularly in my current role. I then moved into our production department, manufacturing parts for our main product and gaining insight into manufacturing methods involved in batch production. When the summer holidays came around I took a City & Guilds welding course, this helped me appreciate some of the challenges involved in design and manufacture as well as becoming something of a hobby. I then moved into product engineering where my versatility is utilised to the full. I am currently studying a HNC in electronic and electrical engineering while completing my NVQ. 

Tell us more about your Fundamentals experience and your career journey to date?

Working in product engineering is as varied as it is challenging; I have produced bespoke equipment for customers, designed and built automated test sets, and performed troubleshooting to keep production of our main product running. In the department we start each day with a quick meeting to discuss our aims for that day and report any problems encountered the previous day; it’s a nice way to keep everyone up to date and allows any urgent unplanned work to be discussed. One of the things I enjoy most about working in product engineering is the variety of projects I have been involved in, from working with microcontrollers to conducting thermal tests.

I have been fortunate to work alongside some extremely talented and knowledgeable people at Fundamentals; for almost anything I engage in there’s someone I can go to for assistance; it’s a friendly group and we work well together.

What’s the most valuable skill you’ve learnt?

I have accrued a few useful skills but I would say interpersonal skills are probably the most vital; a team is only as good as its communication so I try to keep those I’m working with in the loop as much as I can. Empathy and being able to listen are also important; people may hold different views they usually appreciate taking the effort to understand their position. I completed a basic counselling course some years ago which provided some very practical training; it’s nice being able to utilise my clinical background from time to time!

What are your career aspirations at Fundamentals?

I believe it’s difficult to be sure of what you want to do until you’ve tried it; I will be working in the design department soon and spending time on customer sites with the installation team in the future. The role I see myself in changes with new experiences but I know I want to keep developing my knowledge and abilities- in the long term I would like to pursue a degree in engineering and in the near future I would like to become a chartered technician with the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET). 

I recently had the opportunity to write code for a piece of test equipment and have since started exploring microcontrollers as a way to develop my programming skills. Given the increase in our day-to-day use of electronics a grounding in electronics and programming is a useful skill set to have when solving technical problems.

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