We recently caught up with Nathan Lawson, an Apprentice Aircraft Mechanic at British Airways. He told us about his experience so far as an apprentice, why he pursued a career in engineering, and his advice for aspiring engineers...
What made you decide to pursue a career in engineering?
I have always been interested in how things work and the theory behind mechanics and their design. I realised since school that working with my hands has suited my style of working as opposed to desk work. Engineering is the perfect role for me as I can learn and develop skills all the time and every day is different.
What was it about the apprenticeship route that appealed to you?
I have had many friends who have successfully completed a university degree; after that their likelihood of finding employment, especially in engineering, is slim. It has always appealed to me being paid to learn, learning on the job and having no student debt after qualifying, all the while gaining valuable on the job experience is the most appealing way I believe a school/college leaver can progress into a career.
What was the application process like for your apprenticeship with British Airways?
Initially, I completed an online application form and aptitude test consisting of basic maths and English skills. After being successful in the application process, an interview with the Tell Organisation took place and an in-person aptitude test. This is unique to my apprenticeship being based in Glasgow, and it’s slightly different for students applying for the London and Cardiff apprenticeships. The final stage of the process is an interview with the British Airways team themselves.
What stage of your apprenticeship are you at currently, and how has the experience been so far? Have there been any particular highlights?
I am currently three months into my apprenticeship with British Airways. The balance of academic studies with real experience working on live aircraft is such a beneficial way to consolidate the course curriculum we study on the side.
Particular highlights have to be the ability to work with licensed engineers on aircraft functionality checks and getting the opportunity to learn how to operate the aircraft control which helps us to learn the systems on board.
What are you most looking forward to learning or experiencing in the rest of your apprenticeship?
I am looking forward to gaining my qualifications fully and being able to have full-time experience in the hangar environment. I am also looking forward to seeing more sites British Airways operate from. We will be gaining experiences in the London engineering and maintenance hangars which I am really hopeful to gain new and different qualifications in.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your career so far?
I believe the most challenging aspect is getting the ball rolling in an apprenticeship. Starting a new job can be difficult on its own and adding the pressure of not having the skills or knowledge from the get-go can be overwhelming. I believe its hardest to break in to the workforce and try to pick up working methods and niches you won’t have to begin with.
What do you enjoy the most about your role?
The part I enjoy about most in my role is the variety of jobs and tasks that are required within aircraft maintenance and the different skills set that they all involve. We, as engineers, must have the ability to be flexible and capable of working on all aspects of the aircraft and have knowledge of all the systems and controls we need to remove, repair or replace.
What advice would you give to any aspiring engineers out there who are planning their first career steps?
I would encourage any aspiring engineers to investigate the path of engineering they would like to learn and have a look into what apprenticeships are available as they’re, in my opinion, the best way to enter the industry. I would also recommend to anyone who is interested to speak to industry professionals to get direct feedback on their application or qualifications.
Browse apprenticeship opportunities with British Airways here.
Browse the latest engineering jobs here.