Engineering apprentices rise to the challenges of the pandemic!

Article summary: Two groups of PETA engineering apprentices, working towards their Level 3 BTEC in Advanced Manufacturing, faced the additional challenges of their final project presentation under Covid-19 restrictions.

Instead of the usual project open day where each apprentice would have prepared a display stand to accompany their project presentations in the PETA conference hall, the whole event was moved online.

The project, which is combined with the communications module, allows the BTEC students to draw together the subjects studied and skills developed throughout their three-year programme. Apprenticeships are a great way of combining theoretical learning with the practical side of learning on the job and it is through the project that the apprentices demonstrate to their employers how they have grown in terms of skills, knowledge and behaviours.

The project groups were led by PETA engineering instructors Dr Althea de Souza and Paul Lammas. They guided the learners to identify a suitable topic, generally driven by an industrial need at their place of work. The apprentices then had to come up with several solutions, select the most suitable and implement it. This was done whilst also getting to grips with remote teaching, dealing with times of furlough and all the other challenges the pandemic has presented. 

Project topics included development of a pre-production pilot cell, design of a lid extraction manifold, various jigs including for a twin motor actuator and fuel injector rig, improvement in production line output, a bearing installation tool and a gimbal height adjustment device, amongst others. The apprentices come from a range of different local companies, including Eaton Ltd, Huhtamaki (UK) Ltd, SMR UK Ltd, Alitex Ltd, Talley Group Ltd, Laleham, H&S Aviation, Elta Fans, MTES and Wartsila.

PETA CEO Huw Chapman said:  “As part of the Engineering apprenticeship programmes at PETA, a large number of apprentices complete a BTEC in Engineering. This is designed to weave in a strong educational knowledge of engineering principles to complement the apprentices’ practical education.  The project brings these two elements together with the majority of projects relating to the apprentices’ workplace.  

"Having joined the presentation day I was really proud of the detailed professional projects that had significant business impact at their organisation.  The day was a true credit to the apprentices, the teaching staff that supported them and their employers.”

Towards the end of the unit, the apprentices individually presented their projects through a virtual conference format. This required them to develop additional skills both in terms of the technology used and also the different presentation style needed without feedback from a face-to-face audience.  

Dr de Souza said: “This year, on top of everything else, they had to complete their projects, as well as learn how to present online, with more formal powerpoint presentations. Most of them were very anxious about that aspect, but they all excelled in their deliveries, engaging the audience and doing a fantastic job. Well done to all.”

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