Ellen Barkas completed a BTec level 3 Triple Diploma in Engineering at South Devon University Technical College in the summer of 2017, she was awarded DISTINCTION/DISTINCTION/MERIT for the course. The modules undertaken covered a broad spectrum of mechanical, electrical, construction and materials engineering, as well as computer aided design and manufacture, lean/six sigma and health and safety. Her consistently strong performance across all modules is reflected in her final grades, and she has demonstrated a sound understanding of engineering principles and practice across a very broad range of disciplines.
Ellen is a very effective contributor, team player, and leader. This was demonstrated by her participation in a design and build competition, ‘Hackfest’ which involved rapid prototyping and development of a sustainable solution for 3rd world use. The team’s innovative design of a motor – assisted water carrier won the regional final. She has displayed excellent project management potential in tasks such as this.
She took part in wider teambuilding activities, representing the UTC at the Royal Navy Junior Leader’s Field Gun Competition. An arduous and demanding challenge for a team of 24, Ellen played a full part and contributed to the College reaching the Plate 1 final, finishing 7th out of 18 teams overall, most of whom were older adult teams.
Ellen was appointed in November 2017 as a Degree Level Apprentice with Briggs and Forrester and is studying at the University of West of England, Bristol. She studies there 1 day a week over the next 5 years in order to qualify with a BSc (Hons) Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management, and hope to go on to achieve her Masters and Chartership.
Ellen has worked on a range of projects including Keynsham Riverside Development, the redevelopment and refurbishment of the existing leisure centre, including a new two storey extension, incorporating a learner pool, changing facilities and fitness suite, and also existing office accommodation and shell & core works for 94 new residential apartments. This project includes the full scope of the associated mechanical and electrical services.
Also she has worked on the extension to the existing Science and Engineering Research Support Facility (SERSF) building, working in partnership with Kier. The facilities provide an additional 2 Labs, CTR rooms, offices and seminar rooms for the university to increase the research capabilities. Services include gas, domestic services, deionised Water, CO2 & compressed air, ventilation, fume extract, chilled water, DX cooling, controls, above ground drainage, generator Installation, mains distribution, general power, CCTV, Lighting, Access control, Fire alarm, Intruder Alarm, Lightning protection, PV installation, Data, Refuge alarm and Mechanical wiring.
Her first project with Briggs & Forrester was the mechanical and electrical services installation at Exeter Ikea, Briggs & Forrester provided mechanical, electrical, smoke control, fire alarm and external services to the new development within the three-story retail store. This Store was completed on 10th May 2018.
Initially, Ellen applied for a general technical apprenticeship and after discussions with the Commercial Manager, she was offered the opportunity to specialise in Quantity Surveying, a field of interest that Ellen had been keenly interested in after her work experience placement at Linden Homes in her first weeks at South Devon UTC. Briggs and Forester spotted great potential in Ellen and tailored the apprenticeship to support her career aspirations to become a Quantity Surveyor, they saw that Ellen had this on her CV and on her personal statement. Ellen is also involved with raising awareness for women in construction and International Women in Engineering Day, she has written an article for the company website with two other women talking about what inspired her and why she joined the industry, also why the campaign helps to raise the profile of women in engineering, and to focus on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in the exciting industry.
Ash Brimicombe, 19, has applied to join the Royal Navy as a Marine Engineering Officer, Submariner (MEOSM) and is about to take the Medical assessment. Ash will have an interview with the Admiralty Interview Board (AIB) in April 2019. The application process takes almost a year and if he passes the AIB he will apply to get a Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme (DTUS) grant to support his university studies. A meeting with Commander David Goldsmith, South Devon UTC Governor gave Ash more insight and information about the process of applying for university study.
Lieutenant Commander Paul Youngman (NAVY DEVFLOT-UTC LIAISON OFFICER) arranged for Ash to visit HMNB Devonport to meet with submariners and submarine officers and to gain an experience of life as a submariner. Ash met with a submariner officer who talked him through the process of applying. Ash had a full tour of a Trafalgar Class Nuclear Submarine which is alongside in HMNB. The scale and complexity was particularly interesting – it reminded Ash of the Space Shuttle. He also observed the technical hydraulics and systems within the weapon stowage compartment and also spoke with the warfare officers in the Control Room.
Ash was given a tour by two other submariners who are training to be active marine engineering officers (MEO). They were able to give Ash a run-down of Royal Navy life and the experience as an engineer. Ash had a three-course dinner in the Wardroom and was able to talk with the officers who had given him a tour of the naval base earlier in the day.
“I came away from the day feeling that it was such an honour to experience this. No-one else gets to do or see this. It cemented my decision to join the Royal Navy. My Engineering teacher at the UTC, Mr Stephen Green was a weapons engineer for surface fleet. His reflections on his Navy life inspired me to take a look at the career pathways in the forces but particularly in the Royal Navy. “.
Zach Harrison, 20, is currently working at Hinkley Point as part of his Degree Level Apprenticeship. He works at the nuclear power station for a month and a half before attending University for two weeks. This pattern continues right up until his exams. After studying at South Devon UTC, Zach was keen to put his skills into practice:
“I actually started studying for my A Levels at another college but it wasn’t for me so I stopped and transferred to South Devon UTC. I found that doing an engineering based BTEC course was a lot more helpful to me than my A Levels were. I’ve used pretty much everything I’ve learnt at South Devon UTC in my office or on-site. A lot of what I learnt at South Devon UTC has also re-appeared in the first term of my University degree at the University of Exeter as well.
“I chose to start an apprenticeship as I was keen to get some hands-on experience in my chosen field. As far as I’ve seen, people will go to University and they’ll come out to places like Hinkley Point, but they won’t have as much hands-on experience compared to those who have completed an apprenticeship here. My apprenticeship is giving me the chance to develop my skills and learn the ins and outs of the company as well as how things work. I don’t feel like I miss out on the University experience at all as with my Degree Level Apprenticeship, I still get to go to University as well.”
Before deciding to start his Degree Level Apprenticeship, Zach was unsure of whether to become a full-time University student or to start an apprenticeship. He commented:
“To others in a similar position, I would advise to apply to both and keep in contact with each until you make your decision. Find out what the similarities and differences are and what they can offer you. I didn’t quite realise what the structure of my apprenticeship at Hinkley Point was going to be like. I get a lot of experience down on site and I’m already learning things that those who have already been through University are only just learning. It’s just a case of exploring what your options are as there are plenty out there.”
Jemima May, 18, hopes to start an apprenticeship at Wales and West Utilities later this year. Currently studying at South Devon UTC, Jemima is looking forward to seeing what an apprenticeship can do for her career. She commented:
“I chose to embark on an apprenticeship instead of going to University as I like the idea of participating in hands-on work whilst earning money. With an apprenticeship, there’s a great opportunity to progress and work your way up through a company from the get-go.
“At South Devon UTC, I’ve learnt some great skills on machines, I’ve developed good communication skills and I’ve learnt how to problem solve. I’ve also learnt to tackle a challenge from all different aspects, enabling me to solve and get around a problem. I chose Wales and West Utilities as they have some great opportunities in electrical engineering which is what I am interested in.”
Many young people struggle to decide which path to take once they have finished compulsory education. Jemima is encouraging others not to rule out apprenticeships and to start looking around at different companies to see what they can offer. She continued:
“Make sure you understand what happens after you complete your apprenticeship as that’s the most important part. If you go to University, once you leave, you’re back at step one on choosing where to go next. So, I’d say look at all the different companies in the area you want to go into, contact them and ask them what they are looking for and find out what happens when you pass your apprenticeship. Establish whether you have the opportunity to progress further up through the company.”