My career as: an Electronics Engineering Instructor
We spoke to one of our candidates, Jenna Black*, an Electronics Engineering Instructor, about her experience and career in engineering, and her words of advice for young people entering the sector.
How and why did you choose this career?
At the age of 16, I went to the Armed Forces Careers Office in pursuit of a challenging adventure which would take me across the world. That led me to join the Royal Navy as an Electronics Technician and Weapons Engineer, after reading about Engineering within the Armed Forces.
It was the perfect challenging adventure I’d hoped for. It was a chance to be part of a team, not only studying Electronic Engineering, but having hands-on training with the equipment and systems which make up the Royal Navy’s elite ordnance and missile systems.
Above all else, this was something that was a million miles from what I ever expected to do. It also wasn’t something that was readily available for me to sign up for at an ordinary college.
Who or what inspired you to get into the industry?
I’ve now been in engineering for around 12 years and have had the privilege to work with some great organisations on interesting projects, which has expanded my knowledge enormously.
Projects managed by outside organisations meant I had to adapt my knowledge and appreciation for the equipment. I also built strong relations with contractors and met some truly inspirational people – individuals with great experience and knowledge, who had witnessed the ever-evolving ways of the Engineering trade.
This inspired me to go further into engineering. It’s a trade where things are constantly changing. New ideas and equipment are constantly introduced. Plus there are many different roles within each team and many teams within each project. It was an opportunity where I could have realistic ambitions about branching out into different avenues, changing the projects and people that I was working with from one year to the next.
What is a typical ‘day in your work life’ like?
After leaving the Royal Navy in 2015, I joined the global engineering company I work for today, facilitating the technical training of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in the British Army. My job is to train the engineers on the equipment and systems used within the Force to maintain the operational capability of the Ministry of Defence.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
I enjoy meeting students who work in a variety of areas across the British Army and are based across the UK, as they often have diverse life and trade skills. They make my job rewarding and refreshing, because they all bring something different to each new course: different mindsets, personalities and thought processes, which gives me new perspectives.
This also helps me to continuously adapt and improve the course, making sure the students get the most out of the training and also have an enjoyable experience. In my job, there are many teams working together to support the students, and I enjoy working with each of them to achieve our overall objective.
What education requirements, college degrees or licences are needed for your career?
As a Royal Naval Engineer, I needed GCSE qualifications graded at A-C. The Royal Navy trained me to gain my NVQ Level 3 qualification within Electronic Engineering and Manufacture, an Advanced Apprenticeship within Electronic Engineering, as well as an Extended Diploma in Engineering and Functional Skills. Once I completed my course, I was able to apply for a licence with the Institution of Engineering and Technology, which gave me a recognised certification.
As part of my Military resettlement allowance, I enrolled on several other courses and qualifications to enhance my knowledge and get into the role I hoped for. This helped me to get my current role at an international engineering company; where I also have the opportunity to gain further qualifications within the education and training sector, as well as joining several soft skills and health and safety courses.
What are the most important skills and abilities required in engineering?
To be a good engineer, in my opinion, I would say abilities such as problem solving, communication and motivation are important – these allow you to build and support yourself within the role. A large part of the job in electronic engineering involves being able to source relevant information required to work on the equipment.
Knowledge of the correct working practices and health and safety regulations will ensure that everyone works safely to avoid injury to themselves and each other, as well as avoiding damage to the equipment.
Finally, having an appreciation of the surrounding environment and the bigger picture for each task will also help to ensure that everyone is working towards achieving the same result, safely.
What do you wish you knew (but didn’t) when you first started this career?
Although I did work hard to gain my qualifications, I think I should have been more focused on fully understanding the engineering principles, rather than studying to just pass the exams. The whole cycle of studying, sitting in exams and then dropping the knowledge to focus on the next module has done me no favours.
I ended up having to re-study and teach myself things that should have been second nature to me. I also wish I had asked my trainer the questions that were bothering me in class.
Any ‘words of advice’ for young people entering this sector?
Just go for it. There isn’t a set career path in engineering – who knows where it could take you in the world and who you could end up meeting.
*All information is based on Jenna’s personal experiences and may not be factually correct or applicable to current legislation or regulations.