I was in the engineering & manufacturing business for almost 13 years but I began my career as an apprentice. My background is in gear manufacturing, where I was a machine programmer/operator for almost 5 years and a manufacturing supervisor for a further 8 years . Now I’m in the education business where I instruct and assess 1st year apprentices and then monitor them for the next 3 years of their careers. This takes place at their company, to ensure they’re getting the training they need to fulfill the apprenticeship program.
I have dealt with people from different backgrounds of education during my time in engineering and the ones who seem most knowledgeable and are indispensable to their companies, are the people who have started their career as an apprentice and have had hands on experience with the product they are making.
I have dealt with some graduates, straight out of university, working for reputable companies, who although can put together and read a spread sheet very well, don’t actually understand the technical information behind it and therefore make bad decisions.
My advice to anyone looking to get into engineering, would be to get an apprenticeship. Straight away, you’re learning skills and knowledge that are applicable to your job and you are getting a hands on understanding of how things are processed in a particular way and to a particular tolerance. Not to mention you’re earning a living while being educated! If you look in the car park or our training centre, you’ll notice that the value of the cars tend to be more expensive at the apprentice side of the car park!
Once you have a good understanding of the industry and you have your qualification, I would then advise to take your education further, if that’s what you desire. I think it’s more advantageous to be studying subjects that you can already to relate to, rather than studying them without any experience in the industry. If your company sees potential in you, they’ll more than likely offer to fund the education as well. There’s another advantage. No student debt!