How to become a degree apprentice process engineer: Alex's story
Meet Alex. He's 24 and from Bolton, near Manchester. Find out about his job as a trainee supervisor in process engineering for Hanson UK, a building materials company. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.
How would you describe your job?
My job is to assist the senior managers at the cement works. At a cement works we take various types of rock from the ground and process them together to create cement.
I do a lot of sample collecting because you have to test the quality of the rock all the way through the process. I am responsible for the analysis of the various products created. I also have to look at data, write reports, attend meetings and help to solve problems.
Because I'm on an apprenticeship, I also get a day off work each week to study at university.
What are the most important skills that you use in your job?
Communication skills are really important in my job. I have to be able to communicate face-to-face and in writing with lots of different people.
Prioritisation and time management are also very important skills, because of the various tasks and responsibilities handed down from senior management.
I also use lots of maths skills.
What was your journey to getting your job?
For my GCSE options, I chose Electronics, Further Maths, Spanish and ICT. I then went to sixth form college where I did A-levels in Chemistry, Maths and ICT.
I studied Materials Engineering at university but I didn't enjoy the style of learning there, so I dropped out after two years.
I saw this job advertised on the government’s apprenticeships website. It sounded ideal so I applied. I have gained lots of additional qualifications on my apprenticeship so far, which will count towards a foundation degree.
What advice would you give to younger students interested in engineering?
This industry is always looking for people. If you want a job where you are not sitting behind a desk all the time, this is a good industry to go into. It's also fantastic if you like wearing orange!
There is more than one route you can take to get into a job. University wasn't right for me, but an apprenticeship was
It's really important to be flexible at work. I’ve adapted to a variety of different managers over the last three years
Be confident in yourself. When I saw this job advertised I knew I wanted it. I said I was going to get it and I did!
Alex’s apprenticeship is providing him with experience to be a process engineer. Process engineers develop ways to turn raw materials into everyday products and help to oversee the day-to-day operation of the processing plant.
What to expect if you want to be a process engineer
Process engineer salary: £35,000 to £44,000 per year
Process engineer working hours: 39 to 41 per week
What qualifications do you need to be a process engineer?
Typical entry requirements: You may be able to do a science industry process engineer degree apprenticeship. You'll usually need four or five GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and college qualifications like A-levels (or equivalent) for a higher or a degree apprenticeship. Alex needed two A-levels (or equivalent) including one STEM subject for his apprenticeship. You could do a degree or postgraduate qualification in a subject such as Chemical Engineering, Process Engineering or Biochemical Engineering. You may be able to do a postgraduate conversion course if you have a degree in a related area like Engineering, Chemistry or Polymer Science. You could also start as a process engineering technician and do training on the job to qualify as an engineer. With experience, a process engineer could progress to senior process or design engineer or research and development manager, or go on to be a plant manager, overall operations manager or move into consultancy work.
This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service, GOV.UK)