Ask an apprentice: Sally Parker

We talked to Sally about her experiences as an apprentice at Capula, here's what she said:

Q. What Apprenticeship are you currently studying for (or have recently completed)?

A. I have recently completed a BSc (Hons) Digital and Technology Solutions Professional (Cyber Security Analyst) Integrated Degree Apprenticeship with First Class Honours.

Q. Who or what inspired you to take up an apprenticeship at Capula?

A: During careers week at my 6th Form, Capula came in to present their apprenticeship opportunities. They explained that there were gaps in finding engineering with the technical skills in STEM subjects, as well as individuals with the right “soft skills” such as communication, teamwork, and punctuality.

This presentation from Capula inspired me to undertake some research into the role of digital technology and the new category of jobs and opportunities this has created in engineering. During this research, I took an interest in the digitisation of assets including infrastructure, connected machines, data, and data platforms and this is when I applied to join Capula’s apprenticeship scheme as I felt that they offered an opportunity for me to build on this interest.

Q. Route into an apprenticeship

A. After completing 6th form, I chose to follow the apprenticeship route as this would allow me to gain hands-on experience and have the opportunity to apply my skills immediately within the workplace.

Q. What does your typical day in the workplace include?

A. I’m currently balancing working at Capula whilst undertaking a higher degree apprentice in Digital and Technology Solutions. As an IT Engineer for automated control systems, my typical day involves delivering projects that span across the Nuclear industry; supporting our customers to improve performance, reliability and meet their environmental compliance targets.

Q. What skills have you developed during your apprenticeship?

A. I’ve developed a good understanding of the end to end project lifecycle, as well as gaining experience and knowledge of the procedures involved during software build and testing. In addition, I have established technical knowledge of automated control systems, and have benefited from working with senior engineers in this field.

Q. What was your college/work life balance like?

A. Throughout my studies, I have coped well managing my time alongside projects. The successful completion of my degree, together with further experience gained, is the right formulae for my progression as an engineer.

Q. Why did you decide to progress onto an apprenticeship over university?

A. When I finished school, many organisations working within the Engineering and IT sector were facing major skills shortages. Apprenticeships were seen as an important topic of discussion and welcomed as a successful route for organisations to develop their own talent.

This really attracted me towards developing my career via the apprenticeship route, and in particular in Nuclear. I was able to find an opportunity which would allow me to gain the experience required for a long and successful career in the Nuclear industry, and I am so excited to continue on my journey.

So far, my experience of the apprenticeship scheme has been fantastic. It has helped me to learn, develop and grow both as a person but equally as an engineering professional.

Q. What has been your greatest achievement during your apprenticeship?

A. Although finishing my degree was the highlight of my apprenticeship, I think the best moments for me have been working in high demand environments as I find that the added stress motivates me to do better, reach further and work harder.

Another key moment of my degree apprenticeship was having the opportunity to train another Junior Engineer. As well as educating and training the new starter, this made me reflect further on my own skills. I believe one of the best ways to develop your own skills is to help/train others. This opportunity gave me chance to revisit the beginning stages of my role with wiser eyes, allowing me to understand in greater detail how each “puzzle” of my learning to date fits together.

One other highlight of my apprenticeship was being awarded Higher/Degree Apprentice of the Year at the National Skills Academy Nuclear (NSAN) awards. It was such an honour to have been recognised by Capula and the wider industry for all my hard work.

Overall, I think my greatest achievements have always been when I have been most challenged.

Q. Have you been able to get involved in any major projects?

A. Yes, I have recently been assigned to work on a project at Sellafield. This project has given me exposure to and experience on front-end project work from the early lifecycle of the design. It has challenged me technically as there have been multiple technologies for me to learn.

Q. How did Capula supported you through your apprenticeship?

A. Coming straight from school to the “real-life” of work was a challenge because I had to learn everything on live and active systems. However, Capula understands the importance of working on live systems and has supported me massively with this transition and also throughout my studies. They have offered me many opportunities for me to develop my skills, helping me to achieve great things.

Q. What would your advice be to somebody thinking about studying an apprenticeship?

A. In the first days of apprenticeships they were mostly offered in the construction trades, and apprentices would often become carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and so on. Seeing how far apprenticeships have come and how grateful I am to have been given the opportunity to undertake one, I would say well done; you have made a great decision which should set you up for a long and successful career.

Many employers want to develop their own skills and grow their own talent. Apprenticeships are designed to improve the skills and future career progression of participating individuals. When I first started at Capula, I was surrounded by all experienced and knowledgeable engineers within IT. I felt like I had to be a “Jack of All Trades” and know everything about IT. After a year of my apprenticeship, it became clear that everyone is always learning, and no one ever knows everything.

I have found the right position, the right employer, and above all the right career path for my future. That is what individuals need to focus on when looking for an apprenticeship.

Q. What do you hope to do next?

A. I understand that gaining the necessary experience and developing my technical knowledge are the most important factors for my career both short and long term. I have now been added onto Capula’s graduate scheme and I am really keen to continue to show my commitment to learning and to push myself further.

In addition, I have recently signed up to the Level 7 Digital Transformation short course at Staffordshire University, which I am really excited to start. This course will not only aid my personal development, but also support my professional growth in the industry.

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