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  • Natalie Parry

The benefits of a Materials Process Engineer degree apprenticeship standard – An apprentice's view

  • Employee gains key specialist skills and broader understanding of manufacturing

  • Improves confidence and leadership

  • Overall more effective at work

  • Cost-effective way for employers to grow specialised workforce capabilities

My name is Natalie Parry. I am currently working as an engineering team leader for Turbine Surface Technologies Ltd.

I started this course (Manufacturing Technology and Management) run through Cranfield University in 2021. Due to Covid-19, it started virtually but eventually, due to easing of restrictions, became face-to-face. Studying through this period gave its own challenges and benefits.

The course was formatted having study weeks, which had pros and cons. It was good that I could block out my work diary to have a study week, although that meant I had more to catch up on when returning to work the following week compared to if it was day release for example. Having said that, I’m not sure how this course could be structured using day release. My employer was understanding of this, however, and I worked hard to ensure that I kept up to speed with my workload. As this course is under an apprenticeship, I also was granted 20% off the job time to work on developing my knowledge, skills and behaviours. My employer was fully supportive of this, allowing me to schedule my time to incorporate this off-the-job activity. I feel I had a good level of flexibility around this whilst recognising that sometimes this wouldn’t always go to plan due to the nature of the manufacturing environment I work in.

Starting virtually allowed me to ease myself back into university life, learning but in the comfort of my own home. Although I enjoyed the virtual aspect, it did make it more difficult to get to know other people on the course. When restrictions were eased, and we could study at Cranfield, I realised how enjoyable it was to be on campus. Due to distance, I stayed at Cranfield during the study week which I really enjoyed. Although the days of lectures were long (as there is a lot to cover in a week), it was nice to spend time outside of lectures with others on the course, working with them in group projects and socialising. I personally also found it easier to learn in a face-to-face environment but that’s possibly just my learning style.

My employer was keen for me to undertake this course to aid my professional development. I had been working for my employer for several years prior to being asked if I would be interested in this course, moving my way from my initial role in the laboratory, into product engineering and into new product introduction engineering. I have always been driven and wanted to develop my career and my manager at the time thought this was a good way to do that.

For me, I had mentioned in many one-to-one’s that I was keen to develop and eventually wanted to move into a leadership position looking after the engineering team I was working in. I really wanted to develop professionally but also personally. I had never had much confidence though and when this course was offered I wanted to take the opportunity to learn, hoping that it would make me feel more confident in my own abilities. I have since moved into a leadership position and I genuinely feel that this course helped me to find my confidence to go for the job. Working in this new role I really feel that this course has helped me in many ways. It has allowed me to learn so much, grow my skills and progress my career. The modules covered many different topics, which have helped me to better understand manufacturing as well as learn about different leadership styles, helping me to find my own style for my own job. In addition to theoretical and practical engineering knowledge, the course also taught through case studies. This focus, together with work-based projects, helped me to better understand the problem-solving tool kit, allowing me to reflect on what I’d done, the successes and lessons learned, and generally develop to become a better engineer and leader.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this course to others. It’s been hard work but I feel it’s been worth it. I believe that my employer has also found this course beneficial. When I’ve had feedback the growth in my confidence always comes up as a big benefit. The way I look at and address problems has also developed, which has not only helped me but has also helped my effectiveness at work.



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