Learning the value of studying and working at the same time…
After a lovely Christmas break spending valuable time with family and friends, life as a Degree Apprentice studying on the part-time AEP programme continues to be just as busy, if not more so! This year so far, has brought two more weeks at university, which has in turn meant two more lots of exams, and many more assignments, as well as a busy work placement. I’ve also had a much needed holiday and found out the exciting news that my husband and I are expecting a baby girl this summer.
My university blocks took place from 11th-15th January and 22nd-26th February. As usual both of these weeks started with exams meaning that many hours in the lead-up were spent madly revising. Over the two blocks I had an exam in each of my six topics for the year, giving me a much better idea of the subjects that I am confident, and less confident, with! I have found that studying six topics each year has really helped me to understand the areas that I am most interested in. This in turn has helped me to work out the direction which I would like to pursue in my work placements.
My current work placement is with the Interior Trim section of the Cost Engineering team. During my time in this placement I have been working on understanding the manufacturing processes and materials used to make up seats. This has included in-depth studies into plastic injection moulding, and the sewing processes used to make seat covers. The knowledge I have gained into these processes has allowed me to work out costs that I think are reasonable for our suppliers to be quoting and where there are any gaps. It has also led to in-depth negotiations to try and reduce these costs. The theoretical knowledge that I have picked up in the Design for Manufacturing module this year, and last year in Materials and Manufacturing Processes, have both really helped me during this work placement. This has once again reinforced to me the value of completing my degree part-time with WMG whilst working at Jaguar Land Rover.
In support of my work placement looking at materials and processes, I was lucky enough to spend two days in Scotland last month visiting Bridge of Weir, one of our leather suppliers. This visit taught me two very important things. Firstly about how a natural product is processed from hide to automotive grade leather that can be used in our seating systems, and secondly that the tanning process is incredibly smelly, perhaps not the best place for someone experiencing morning sickness! This trip really extended my knowledge from just looking at standard automotive materials such as plastics and metals, to a more specialist material.
The link between my university modules and work has also been reinforced in the assignments that we have been given for some of our subjects. At the moment I am working on a couple of small assignments for Dynamic Mechanics & Thermofluids, and a larger one for Engineering Systems. All of these assignments require us to apply our knowledge in projects that we are working on during our time spent at Jaguar Land Rover.
The focus on a strong link between my theoretical knowledge that I am learning at WMG, and putting that into practice in my work placements was something that I really strived for when choosing to do an Apprenticeship. I’m so glad that I’m getting the opportunity to pull these two elements together. Trying to undertake both my degree whilst working for Jaguar Land Rover, and having a handle on my work-life balance is definitely challenging though. I continue to have to work really hard, but the opportunities that I can see opening up to me as I progress definitely make it worthwhile.
Lectures, Moodle and self-study
During the autumn term I spent two full weeks at WMG from 12th-16th October and 16th-20th November. During these weeks I was in lectures from 8:30 until 16:30 with the option to stay for an hour of self-study with lecturer support at the end of the day.
Most days I have seven, 50 minute lectures on a variety of different subjects. This year I will complete six modules in:
- Quality Methods
- Instrumentation & Control
- Engineering Systems
- Dynamic Mechanics & Thermofluids
- Design for Manufacturing
- Analytical Modelling & Simulation
With the exception of the first block, all of my other week blocks at university begin with three, one hour exams. This is exactly how block two started for me, 9:00am on Monday 16th November I completed exams for Instrumentation & Control, Engineering Systems and Thermofluids – it was tough. However, when my results came through four weeks later I was pleasantly surprised to see that my revision had paid off, maybe I was just being a little over dramatic!
I really enjoy doing my degree part-time with WMG, and the Applied Engineering Programme (AEP) is really well designed for students that are working full-time, and appreciate seeing a purpose in learning the theory. However when it comes to the exams, I’m not quite such a big fan! I think my main struggle with the exams is having three of them back to back. It just seems like so much information to have to squeeze into your brain all at once! I’m sure my husband despairs with me the weekend before I have an exam. On the other hand, being able to split the exams up into smaller chunks throughout the year suits me really well.
Another great element of the AEP course is that I have a wide variety of different lecturers who all teach in very different ways, this is something that I really appreciate especially considering the intensity with which the course is taught. The lecturers also use an online system called Moodle to provide us with all of the lecture notes, extra reading material, relevant e-books, quizzes and recordings of the lectures. I have found these resources to be an absolute life-saver whilst doing my revision and assignments during the breaks between blocks.
And now I only have four more blocks to complete this year, makes it sound rather easy doesn’t it?!
Hannah Scott is a Degree Apprentice at Jaguar Land Rover, in her second year on the part-time AEP programme.