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News > Career Paths > A Degree Apprenticeship with JCB

A Degree Apprenticeship with JCB

After completing his A-levels in 2019, ON Nihal Dhillon took up the offer of a degree apprenticeship at JCB which he is enjoying immensely. He has also been back to school to offer advice to pupils.

Nihal's News.

During my seven years at Adams, Mr Latter will confirm it was obvious that the career path I would pursue would be in engineering. Having always taken a keen interest in Design & Technology, Maths and Physics, and then also taking all three subjects at A-level, my heart was set on the sector I wanted to be in. However, during the early weeks of Sixth Form, when I was beginning to think more seriously about life after Adams, my mind was not as focused on one option - university. Of course the traditional thing to do after A-levels is to study engineering at a good university, and then try to find a job with a firm who will take you on after graduating. This was not for me though.

Having made a bike for my GCSE DT project and custom-designed low profile race car ramps for my A-level DT project – both very hands on projects with metalwork skills involved – I knew that a traditional degree would not satisfy my want of doing something more practical after leaving school, despite still wanting to graduate. Naturally, I started looking around at degree apprenticeships – a balance between studying towards a degree while still being able to work in engineering. Being a huge Formula 1 fan, I immediately began looking at the eight UK-based F1 teams to see what they could offer. While certain teams like Williams and Red Bull did have apprenticeships, none were degree apprenticeships and were all lower level, so the search continued.

While my search was taking place over the course of Lower Sixth, I knew that I had to stand out in my applications, even if it meant sacrificing a half-term holiday to get a week of work experience in; and sacrificing some free time to get a part-time job. In total, during the course of that academic year, I had completed work experience with UTC Aerospace, Jaguar Land Rover, Targa Florio Cars and Carlin Motorsport Formula 3 Team, while also working part-time at a car leasing company and as a tutor. While these work placements did take up large amounts of holidays, the skills and experience gained from them has certainly paid dividends. Getting in as much work experience as you can during Sixth Form is something I cannot recommend enough to students – for most employers it is considered to be on the same level of importance as your grades. 

Eventually, after looking around at companies who did have degree apprenticeships who were not located too far away from home, the list was narrowed down to three companies: Airbus, Rolls Royce and JCB. All three of the companies called me down to their respective headquarters for assessment centres which are essentially one-day, slightly more relaxed interviews. A huge thank you as well to Mr Latter for being incredibly supportive every step of the way during that process, and for teaching us topics which I am still applying entering my second year!

Generally, in an assessment centre there is a section which is one-on-one, where you can sell yourself and talk through your CV, and a section in which applicants are put into groups of around six people to see how well you work in a team. Having completed all three assessment centres, I was lucky enough to receive offers from all three companies to join them and do a degree apprenticeship. Now that I had put the work in to ensure I could get them, it was down to me to choose which one I wanted to do. After considering all the options, I ended up choosing JCB since it was a more locally based business, very centred around apprentices, and whose course paid considerably more than Rolls Royce or Airbus.

While the exact structure of an engineering degree apprenticeship will vary depending on both the course and company, in my case it is very simple – Thursday is a ‘Uni day’ in which all of our uni lessons are held (the degree is with Sheffield Hallam University but is taught at JCB for the first two years) and the other four days per week I am at work full time. For me, this layout works very well, and while of course you don’t get the large university holidays, you are under no debt, earning money and spending time in a work environment – a great one as well!

Since starting here at JCB, I have been under the ‘special projects’ division, based at the company’s headquarters, and working as a design engineer – although this can change whenever I want. In the JCB degree apprenticeships, you can simply ask to move into             any part of the business in a different placement (e.g. moving from design at the cabs factory to development at the engines factory).  You will get the respective training in the new sector and can remain there until you wish to move again.

In my case, I have chosen not to move since I am enjoying what I am working on so much. While I obviously cannot say exactly what it is that I have been doing, it has certainly been very exciting and enjoyable to be able to design components on upcoming vehicles, as well as working much more hands-on with special projects for extremely long-term customers. I get the right balance between computer design and hands-on work and the experience I have already gained, and will have gained over the four-year degree course, will be absolutely priceless.



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