Life as an Apprentice at Edwards Vacuum by Sam Ellis and Charlie Harrison

Posted on Monday, March 29, 2021 by Sam and Charlie @EdwardsVacuumNo comments

Life as an apprentice at Edwards Vacuum by Sam and Charlie.

Two of Edwards Vacuum apprentices tell us about what life is like at the company and why they decided to do their apprenticeship with Edwards.

Charlie Harrison – Software Engineering Degree Apprentice

Sam Ellis – Electrical/Electronic Engineering Degree Apprentice

Why did you choose to become an apprentice? 

I chose an apprenticeship because my experience with education was too theoretical in my experience. My preference is definitely in learning practically, something that the apprenticeship helps satisfy. Edwards also pays me, and I have no student loans, so I will enter the workplace with lots of knowledge and with one foot forward in a financial sense – Charlie 

I chose to do an apprenticeship when I was blown away by the welcoming feeling I got at the assessment centre here at Edwards. My mother almost forced me to consider all paths to adulthood and the apprenticeship route looked to me as though it was the way to grow into the most successful person I could be – Sam 

What was it about Edward Vacuum that interested you in becoming an apprentice with them?

Through my previous years’ work experience, I learned that many of the people that worked at Edwards had been there for over 10 years and that the environment was so pleasant and welcoming that people rarely wanted to work anywhere else. The company is also very ethically conscious of its business practices and its impact on the environment – Charlie 

The people! I was welcomed generously and every single person was happy to get to know me. I knew that the vast amount of experience around me was going to be largely beneficial. The technologies that they work with are interesting and have genuine every day uses from enabling the packaging and preservation of food to making plasma TV screens, mobile phones, mirrors and so much more – Sam 

What apprenticeship are you studying at Edward Vacuum?

I'm studying a software engineering degree apprenticeship. I have a lot of excellent mentors and colleagues to teach me, which is brilliant because it is a very diverse subject, ranging from programming to testing and security. It's great to have experts in each corner that can explain these subjects in great detail, with practical examples – Charlie 

Electrical Engineering via the University of Chichester – Sam

How do apprentices at Edward Vacuum interact at work and socially?

During work, many of us are within the same groups so we're in constant contact over MC Teams/in person to help each other with work and university. Since working from home, we attend a weekly coffee break where we catch up. Outside of work, apprentices have organised evenings down the local and some meet-ups at the work-supported clubs. Unfortunately, Corona virus has made it difficult this year – Charlie 

We have a large network of group chats, thanks to MS Teams. We ask each other questions all day every day and every apprentice here is looked after within their studies, homelife and work life. We all chip in to help each other out through using our ever-growing experience that has been passed down by more senior members of the company. When the virus leaves, I am sure we will be going to the local pub to chat because we are all friends as well as workmates – Sam 

How have you managed to continue in your training during COVID?

The University of Chichester have accommodated a mix of online and in-class lectures. Some are better adapted than others due to the nature of the work. Fortunately, software can be worked on and taught remotely really well and I have a passionate lecturer that goes above and beyond to ensure we have access to all the materials we need – Charlie 

The apprentices are still coming into work if necessary, per COVID guidelines, so we are still learning. I am a large part of a team working on an important project, so I need to learn quickly to continue to provide results. The pressure of having to provide for a team helps massively to my growth within engineering – Sam  

Why would you recommend an apprenticeship?

Aside from the financial benefits of being paid and receiving the same degree without having any student loans, there are a number of other immeasurable benefits:

- Practical experience with tools and software
- Working 1-2-1 with extremely knowledgeable professionals that understand applications to theory
- Gaining years of experience and an understanding of the office environment before leaving education – Charlie 

The huge amount of experience around me at work makes both my work and my studies so much easier because I know that if I have any questions about almost anything, there will be someone within the company that can provide an answer. I also know that I can easily get hold of anybody I need, even within our parent company Atlas Copco. The experience of working while completing a degree is priceless because it puts real life issues against theory that has been learnt at University. Obviously being paid to go to University is amazing too – Sam 

How does your apprenticeship align with your career goals?

My career goals are still quite broad with regard to software. However, through the apprenticeship I have the opportunity to rotate through a number of departments and roles to better understand how well I'd fit in. I'm also supported by my managers and mentors through a personal development program to give me an opportunity to discuss, more formally, what my goals are – Charlie 

The internal job market of both Edwards Vacuum and our parent company Atlas Copco allows me to travel the world with the company because they are globally present and they encourage travel to become more familiar with the company. I am excited to grow while seeing lots of countries and learning new cultures and languages.

I know that the people above me and also the people around me are excited to see us apprentices grow, succeed and achieve. I know that the barriers to climbing the metaphorical career ladder are there to be broken down thanks to the motivating atmosphere around me – Sam 

What does your day to day look like during your apprenticeship?

For me, four days of the week are spent at work and one day at university (this isn't the same for everyone). I am currently working from home and my day consists of a variety of activities such as testing new devices, catching up with the team and working with other apprentices on STEM outreach or general tasks. Sometimes I find the time to walk the dog on my lunch.

University days are mostly video calls with lecturers and working on coursework, which can be really engaging and fun, troubleshooting problems in my code and learning from some really enthusiastic lecturers. The workload can be tough, but I'm supported by a great manager who is understanding and allows me to prioritise university tasks when workloads increase around exam time.

Finally, some days involve showing students and prospective apprentices around our Eastbourne product company. This is definitely a highlight of the job as we get to make entertaining vacuum demonstrations and revisit some of our favourite projects and tasks. It definitely reminds me of how fortunate I am to work and learn with such great company. - Charlie

Currently I am working on a test system for one of our products. I have been pillar-drilling, tapping, soldering and wiring in order to wire up this large-scale project. I have enjoyed needing to be creative to find solutions around problems we have inevitably faced every single day. We are nearing the end of this project and I am happy with how my ideas have been considered and used to better the outcome – Sam 

Listen to our PODCAST!

“The ‘Edwards:To A Degree’ podcast is a podcast created by apprentices here at Edwards Vacuum that talks about all things apprentice! We talk about things such as what we do day to day within our jobs, tips for interview processes and applications, we compare a degree apprenticeship to going to university full time and we also speak to seniors within our company and parent companies about our futures. If you are struggling to picture your future, come and listen to our podcast and we might be able to help you make up your mind.

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