Published: 25 February 2021
In 2013, Samantha Jones was awarded an Ogden Sixth Form scholarship* and went to Merchant Taylors Girls’ School to take A-levels in physics, maths and art. She is now an Aerospace Engineering Technical Apprentice at BAE Systems working towards a Higher National Certificate in Advanced Manufacturing. Samantha shares her journey with us.
It was around Year 10 (aged 14-15) when I became interested in physics. I found lots of the topics interesting, and a lot of questions I didn’t even know I had were answered!
During my A-levels, I realised that I didn’t really enjoy sitting in a classroom and the thought of university was extremely daunting. I spoke to a careers advisor about apprenticeships and she showed me the schemes from BAE Systems. I was immediately interested in the aerospace schemes as they offered a hands-on learning experience which was what I wanted. I was extremely lucky to get a place and I have thoroughly enjoyed my apprenticeship which is soon coming to an end. Once my apprenticeship is finished, I will have a full time job at BAE.
Samantha tried a helicopter simulator during a trip to Qatar with BAE
Throughout the apprenticeship I have done several four-month placements, and each has used physics, maths or science in different ways. I had a placement in aerodynamics where I used a lot of maths for testing aircraft wings in a wind tunnel and did a lot of data analysis; I had to apply my physics knowledge to understand how the wings behaved under certain pressures. During another placement, I was within avionics; we did a lot of testing of equipment within the cockpit of an aircraft, as well as dealing with upgrades to this equipment for a better performance.
BAE Systems is such a large company and there are so many different roles that use physics – testing materials, developing future aircraft, testing Typhoon aircraft at final assembly, and so much more. I didn’t know it was possible to have that many different careers that used physics either a little or a lot!
Typhoon Jet at BAE
Throughout school, I was always told to go to university as if it was the only way to get a good career; and don’t get me wrong, you can do exactly that and be very successful, but there are a lot of other ways to achieve it too. With apprenticeships you get paid to learn! What more could you ask for? So, my best advice is to always keep your options open and not to limit yourself to one route for your future. Ensure you do thorough research about how you can achieve what you want – and if you don’t know what you want, then find out what you enjoy the most and research how to make a career out of it! We have our whole lives to earn money and it is important we keep ourselves happy whilst we do it.
Samantha and a team from BAE attend a STEM event at Lossiemouth
I would also recommend that young people try and get involved in STEM as much as possible. I have had endless possibilities when I volunteered to be a STEM ambassador. I have participated in several primary school events, and apprentice evenings as well. I have also been able to visit the RAF base in Lossiemouth. My most interesting opportunity was being chosen to go to Qatar for 11 days for a festival celebrating their National Day. As BAE have a contract with Qatar, we are invited to show the people who live there what we do, and it was honestly one of the best experiences of my career and life. The opportunities are endless in STEM when you show you are a hard worker!
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*this programme is now closed.