Engineering Apprenticeships with Swagelok

University College Isle of Man’s (UCM) engineering programme combines both theoretical and practical based learning, to provide students with a balanced and hands-on introduction into the world of engineering. During its two-year apprenticeship course, students are required to undertake a placement with a local engineering firm, to gain experience within a work place environment, and to develop valuable industry relationships, which will support future career growth.

Sat in the offices of Swagelok, one of the largest and fastest growing companies on the island, with over 40 years of experience in the aerospace sector, are UCM engineering students, Callum Brookes, Adam Ackers, Jack Hampson and Cameron Comber. Here they share their experiences of studying engineering at UCM, and how gaining hands-on experience at Swagelok, has supported their development.


Sparking an interest

As a popular area of study at UCM, there are many factors which attract prospective students to the engineering programme, Jack, who has completed his apprenticeship, and is now working towards his BTEC Level four Higher National Certificate (HNC), explained, “I originally decided to study engineering after visiting the UCM Open Day event, also listening to industry representatives deliver engineering talks each year, is another big reason why I gradually became more interested”.

On the other hand, Cameron, who completed his apprenticeship two years ago, has always planned on following in his family’s footsteps by exploring roles in the engineering sector.

Cameron explained, “I decided to study engineering because I have family members who are engineers, so I have always had a genuine interest and have asked questions about the industry since I was very young”.

Swagelok supervisor, Aaron Kennaugh, explained, “Throughout their time with us, students progress through all of the different areas within our plant and we are able to see progression with their machine skills, and also through their college work”.


Control over your education

The transition from a structured school routine, into a more independent, flexible and respectful place of study, is a huge attraction for many students who decide to further their education with UCM.

Former UCM student, Gary Joughin, who is now a supervisor at Swagelok, discussed how students can benefit from the apprenticeship scheme, “The apprenticeship scheme builds on the core skills of an engineer and it develops a student’s ability to be a stronger person within the manufacturing industry”.

Adam, an Operator Setter who is due to complete his apprenticeship course in September 2020, expressed how a more independent education, felt like an appropriate pathway for him, “It seemed like something that I was more interested in doing, rather than staying at school and completing my A-Levels. The relaxed environment suited me better, as well as the more practical based teaching at UCM, and the tutors treat you like adults”.

Jack added, “After finishing my GCSE’s, I decided that A-Levels were not the best route for me, as I was more interested in the practical side of engineering. So, I applied for UCM and have been studying here for five years now”.


The best of both worlds

Whilst practical experience is paramount for an apprentice to understand the more hands-on and physical elements of the trade, all engineers must have strong mathematical skills, think logically and possess an ability to rise to intellectual challenges. Therefore, the programme ensures that students have enough time within the week to dedicate to their academic studies.

Callum, an apprentice who is currently studying on the Level 2 Craft Engineering course, explained his thoughts on balancing his studies, “You get the best of both worlds. I enjoy being an apprentice because I get to work and study at the same time; I work at Swagelok for four days a week and then I am at UCM for day release, one day a week for theory”.

Swagelok supervisor, Aaron Kennaugh, added, “Throughout their time with us, students progress through all of the different areas within our plant and we are able to see progression with their practical machining skills, and also through the quality of their theoretical college work”.


Taking on the challenge

UCM strives to be an educational provider which challenges, inspires and empowers its students to work hard and obtain qualifications that will translate into rewarding careers. During the engineering programme, students are able to grow and benefit from being within a creative vocational environment, which supports and encourages personal growth.

Cameron discussed how he has experienced personal growth during his time as an apprentice at UCM, “studying on the apprentice programme, where I have increased my experience and knowledge, has inspired me to mature and prepare for my future career”.

Adam also expressed his plans for the future, “Higher qualification levels might open up more opportunities elsewhere in Swagelok. With higher qualifications, you can get into the programming and design side of things; that is where I would like to be in the future”.

If you are interested in pursuing this area of study, find out more information here.