Leonardo apprentices create new ‘immersive’ work experience programme
- The new work experience format at engineering company Leonardo allows high school students to experience what it would be like to have a career in a high-tech business
- The programme, driven by the company’s engineering apprentices, aims to reflect the real-world impact of engineering and boost students’ enthusiasm for a career in STEM
The value of apprenticeships to Scottish industry could not be more topical, with 2018 marking the launch of Scottish Government’s ‘Year of Young People’ and the UK Government’s ‘Year of Engineering’. It was in the spirit of these two initiatives that apprentices at Crewe Toll-based engineering company Leonardo have created a completely immersive work experience programme for local high school students, believed to be an industry first.
Instead of treating school students as visitors to the business, they are transformed into active members of a programme to deliver a ‘helicopter’ to demanding customers, facing challenges as a team over the course of the programme.
The idea to move visitors from passive observers to active participants in a ‘live’ programme came to Leonardo apprentices Thomas Sutherland and Emily Martin after they reviewed feedback from past work experience attendees and saw an opportunity to inspire young people to pursue careers in engineering. Iain Wildgoose, Leonardo’s VP Engineering, helped the Apprentices make their plan a reality by supporting them through the creation process for the ambitious programme.
For a week the work experience programme attendees, drawn from local high schools, are immersed in a project where they must deliver a Meccano helicopter modified with sensors which respond to customer demands. Each participant is assigned a role in the week’s work programme, so that they can learn about engineering, design, manufacture, quality assurance, project planning, testing, finance and marketing.
Apprentice Emily Martin said: “The main goal was to make the week as practical as possible for the participants, putting an emphasis on all the types of jobs there are in an engineering environment. We kept PowerPoint presentations to a minimum over the course of the week, with the idea being that participants will gain a real understanding of the functions of a high-tech company like Leonardo.”
Mechanical engineering aspects of the work experience activity gave the young people an insight into the use of detail drawings, 3D modelling and the 3D printing process. The helicopter uses ultrasonic sensors, motors and servos which are operated by a programmable microcontroller, giving an introduction to software and coding. After successfully fitting the helicopter with the sensors, the group was asked to test the helicopter on a challenging assault course, to ensure the helicopter functions according to the requirements laid out in the project plan. In addition to being asked to create the build plan and a marketing strategy to fit their customer’s needs, the school students also learned about the wider implications of contractual agreements.
At the end of the week, the work experience students were asked to deliver a group presentation to a panel of senior Leonardo managers on their project’s progress over the course of the programme. This was followed by a Q&A with the managers who challenged the team on key aspects of their project delivery.
Iain Wildgoose, VP Engineering said: “I’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm, ambition and professionalism of our apprentices during the delivery of the new work experience programme and I’m delighted to see their passion for engineering being passed on to the visiting students. Feedback from the work experience students, and our senior management who heard their final presentation, confirms that the students gained a wealth of insight into engineering as a career through this hands-on approach.”
A Leonardo spokesperson said: “The quality of the work experience student’s presentations was inspiring, I was very impressed the level of understanding they’d reached in just a week. We think this could be the only work experience in Scotland right now that offers such an immersive experience of an engineering environment. Several of the students said they were going to apply for engineering courses and were seriously considering a career in STEM so I hope that this first taste of industry will be a springboard to greater things for them.”