It’s National Apprenticeship Week, and this year’s theme is ‘Look Beyond’. Here, Lisa Bingley, Operations Director for the MIRA Technology Institute (MTI), talks about how a simple work experience placement and subsequent engineering apprenticeship allowed her to look beyond the traditional route to work to find her perfect role.
I really struggled at school and was deemed not to be academic because I didn’t do very well in exams. I found myself failing repeatedly – so chose practical A Levels in design technology and geography where I seemed to do much better. When I was 17, I was advised to try a Youth Training Scheme and spent a week working with British Airways at Heathrow, which was close to my home in Windsor. I absolutely loved crawling about in the engine of a jumbo jet and – by the end of the week – was hooked on engineering. I diligently applied for jobs as an apprentice but failed to get anywhere with BA.
I then wrote more than 40 letters to businesses within the local area – from which I secured two interviews and one job! This was with Ivertech, a precision engineering company that worked with magnesium die-casting. I became an apprentice there and learnt skills in machining, before progressing to become a toolmaker, CNC operator and, eventually, a CNC programmer. I went on to secure a technical apprenticeship with the same company and then became a design engineer.
Finding the answer
Ivertech were downsizing so I took advantage of a redundancy package to buy the books I needed to go to university. I decided it was time I went back to the classroom to gain the qualifications I was missing.
After my first year studying engineering at Brunel University with a work placement at Daewoo, I was taken aback when they told me that I had failed some of my first-year exams, putting my place on the company’s graduate development scheme at risk. I shall be forever grateful to a colleague who suspected that my difficulties stemmed from undiagnosed dyslexia. She recommended that I took a test and, when the results came back, I realised why I had been struggling with academic work all those years.
Change for the better
Once my dyslexia had been diagnosed, everything changed for the better.
I got such a lot of support and help with literacy, was given a PC and was allowed to re-take my exams. They even discounted my first-year results, enabling me to achieve a 2:1 in my degree.
I went on to work for HORIBA MIRA for nearly 20 years in a range of roles, including safety engineer and project manager. I have always been passionate about influencing the next generation of engineers and that’s why my current role at the MTI is so perfect.
Every day, I am working with students and delegates who are taking advantage of the world-class facilities here to improve their career chances within automotive engineering. I will never forget the opportunities afforded to me by that first apprenticeship and how it all started with a simple work experience placement.