Ali Khan

Technical Engineering Apprentice, University of Sheffield

Ali Khan

Where do you work?

I work for the University Of Sheffield’s Physics and Astronomy Department’s workshop.

I and the other technical staff in the workshop work with a wide variety of academic staff (such as postgraduates, professors and PhD students) to manufacture bespoke research equipment via precise engineering processes.

I have the opportunity to produce work for high-profile projects. A very high quality of work is expected, so I get given a lot of responsibility.

What’s the work/study balance like?

I take one-day release from work every week to attend the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre’s training college just outside Sheffield. I’m studying there for a level 3 BTEC diploma in engineering and also a level 3 NVQ in mechanical manufacturing (I’ve already gained level 2 in this). I have to manage my time wisely as it can sometimes be a bit of a hassle managing work and college alike.

What qualifications did you have when you started the apprenticeship?

I had my GCSEs in ICT, triple science, maths, English, etc. At the time of my application I was in my first year of sixth form doing A-levels in physics and maths.

How has the apprenticeship benefited you?

The apprenticeship definitely matured me, as clichéd as it sounds. You don’t really realise what work is like until you go into it and it’s a world away from school. Skills such as timekeeping, teamworking and general soft skills have all improved. It’s also given me the opportunity to pay for holidays, driving lessons and have a lot more money at my disposal than I otherwise would.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

The variety, the people you meet (from all over the world) and the research/projects they may be involved in. Listening and learning about what they’re doing and trying to achieve is honestly amazing. There’s no repetitiveness in the job and there’s always something to do. There’s also the sense of pride and self-fulfilment that you get from participating in something that could, quite literally, change the world around us.

What are your next career steps?

The apprenticeship scheme covers all aspects of engineering, which will be invaluable as I become more able to assist in the design of physics and astronomy apparatus.

I hope to stay with the physics department after I finish, as I really enjoy what I do here. There may be the opportunity to advance to an engineering degree, funded by my workplace, but it’s early days yet.

Getting a good apprenticeship will, I feel, help me build a fulfilling career. When I was younger I wanted to work in the car industry, so even if my long-term future doesn’t lie with the physics department, the university has a partnership with McLaren, so you never know!

Any advice for someone considering an apprenticeship?

Definitely keep an open mind – it’s an amazing career opportunity and there’s a massive range of industries you could get the chance to work in. All the people around me throughout my apprenticeship have been very supportive and helpful. The best advice I was given was to just try your best – if you put maximum effort into everything you do, the end result is usually very rewarding and you’ll enjoy yourself a lot more.

How did you find your apprenticeship scheme?

I found my apprenticeship through the AMRC training centre, largely based on my own research and knowledge. Looking back now, it’s definitely a good idea to speak to the apprenticeship provider and anybody else who could give you relevant information. Speaking to people who’ve been through an apprenticeship is also a good idea.