Apprentice Jessica Sugden, aged 20, decided against going down the route she had been told was normal for her and heading off to university, instead she chose to pursue a career through an apprenticeship in manufacturing.
Her employer, MPM, is taking part in the Leeds Manufacturing Festival this month and is aiming to encourage more young people to enter a career in the sector. She shares her story with us here:
“When I was in school they told me I had to study certain subjects because I wouldn't get into university without them and I never got told about apprenticeships, really ever.”
Manufacturing: Is it just for 'boys'?
“I think they made it out to be a 'boys' thing', so if you wanted to be an electrician or something like that you could get an apprenticeship, but for girls there were never apprenticeships advertised for us. They never spoke about it really.”
“So I thought about university but for what I wanted to study, there were no real career prospects afterwards so I thought I'd go for an opportunity like this. I applied here and had two interviews where I got absolutely grilled by Ben, the managing director. I must have told him my life story by the end.”
“They do so much stuff here it's ridiculous. I can't even keep up with what they do. The first thing they told me was that the biggest customer they've got provides wastewater solutions making human waste fit for environmental discharge. We were making 18-foot long parts for them. I thought they only made shower drains and stuff!”
“As a business admin apprentice here I do all sorts. I look after attendance, stock takes and purchasing for example. I also do a lot in the workshop like making the signs.”
“Before I came here I would hide in the toilet if I got told I had to do an interview. I was really shy and it took me about three months to start answering the phone confidently. In the end Ben made me by telling me nobody else would answer it and I would leave a customer disappointed if I didn't pick the phone up. I'm totally different now to when I started.”
Apprenticeship vs University
“I think I'm closer to a career now than I would be coming out of university. Unless you're studying to be something like a doctor or something that really needs a degree I don't think it's even worth bothering with university, especially when you can do the same thing and get paid for it.”
“I think it's the best thing I've done. A lot of people I know who've gone to university, they come out and they're a bit stuck because they've never worked and they don't have any experience, whereas I could probably get a career easier than they could because I've got all the career and work experience behind me.”
MPM, based in Bramley, Leeds, is a supplier of composite tooling and products which offers services such as creating fibreglass moulds, resin transfer moulding and CAD design.
The company has won multiple accolades at the Composites UK awards, including Employer of the Year and the Apprentice of the Year for one of its staff members. It has also been recognised for its ability to harness talent and develop its employees at the EEF Future Manufacturing Awards 2017.