Andy Pilbeam, 28, works on the mechanical engineering aspect of the Assembly, Integration and Test (AIT) department at EADS Astrium’s Stevenage plant. The spacecraft they are building will launch a satellite equipped with a laser that will ultimately serve to map the Earth’s winds, where he’ll work in different departments before choosing a permanent role.
Following an orientation project, Thomas began his first placement as part of a team working within the part of the business dealing with high-voltage projects. "To begin with it was a bit daunting to start immediately as part of a project team but it had the effect of making you realise you are part of something very real," he says.
Working for the third largest electrical engineering company in the world has its advantages when it comes to flexibility and diversity, says Thomas. "I applied because of the chance to join a recognised training programme that would give me the chance to experience almost every aspect of the business. It was particularly good for me as after leaving university I was unsure which role would best suit me within the power industry."
What gets him out of bed?
Because the course is recognised by the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) it will be accepted as part of the portfolio of evidence put forward to the IEE when Thomas applies for chartership.
"This scheme is a really great opportunity to gain chartered status," says Thomas. "In terms of my personal development it has also been excellent. For example I’m to travel to Germany to view projects being undertaken there."
Working for a large organisation can mean it’s sometimes hard to know who to contact when you need specific information. "You have to make sure that you build a good network of people to contact for information or help," advises Thomas.
Power engineers are in demand at the moment so it’s worth considering whether this would be a career for you. You’d need to consider choosing the power modules in the third or fourth year of your course. Much of the work in this industry is project based so demonstrating to employers that you can work as part of a team is essential.
"Employers are looking for people who can show they work well with other people rather than requiring a lot of integration," says Thomas. Work experience is also another desirable, he says. "With hindsight I’d have definitely gone for a summer placement during my university course if I’d know how important work experience is to employers."