Two Different Routes to the Right Career; EDUCATION

Article excerpt

Byline: KATE CROCKETT

A career in engineering lets you use your brains and your practical skills, and the field is open to graduates and school-leavers as young at 16.

Here, two engineers from very different disciplines talk about the career paths they have taken.

On-the-job training

Colin Sinclair, 23, is a mechanical engineer at the Ford Motor Company in Dagenham.

I MAKE production-line tools for the company," Colin explains. "Basically, I am making up bits of metal ready to be welded together and then machined to make the tools for the production line of the Ford Focus."

Colin's job involves working from scratch using a range of materials, to produce production-line equipment such as tools to hold car body panels in place, or stands to hold welding equipment.

Colin works shifts - one week on earlies, starting at 6.20am, and one week on lates, from 2.20pm.

He joined a four-year Ford apprenticeship after leaving school at 16. "At my interview they asked what I was interest in, and it came down to making things - getting different raw materials and making something out of them," Colin explains.

To complement those interests, Colin's bosses chose him to train as a toolmaker.

"That's what they thought I'd be best at."

The programme was a combination of technical, practical skills and theory.

"The first year of the apprenticeship is the same for everyone - we did broad-based mechanical and electrical training.

"Then it is split into various different groups - toolmakers, plant maintenance and machinery engineers, vehicle fitters."

Colin studied for two years at Ford's training centre - doing block release at college - before joining other qualified toolmakers for a further two years' on-the-job training, and one-day-a-week at Barking College. Colin also took one extra year of training to continue his studies and achieve an HND.

"Being able to take a drawing of something and actually turn it into a working piece of machinery is a real buzz," says Colin.

He adds that it is important to be flexible, as the hours and working patterns can vary.

"Most engineers are on shift work and it does take a bit of getting used to."

His advice to wannabe mechanical engineers is: "You've got to have an interest in making things and experimenting. Then you just need a lot of common sense."

Starting salary: from ? …