Asha Spruce is an A-level student at UTC Sheffield City Centre. She is studying for four A-levels. The college has invested in real world engineering equipment that allows students to get hands-on, practical experience alongside their academic studies.
“For me, the chance to use real industry standard equipment is such a great addition to traditional education. The UTC has invested lots and lots of money into quality machinery that is also used in day-to-day industrial life so that students can really understand and get a feel for working within engineering.”
I am currently a year 12 student studying four individual A-levels at the UTC (University Technical College) in Sheffield city centre. These include maths, physics, English language and engineering. My main motivation for choosing the engineering qualification was to gain more knowledge into each individual sector of the engineering industry to ultimately decide the field I enjoy the most.
Within the A-level there are six units that must be completed to receive the qualification at the end of it – they are a combination of coursework units and written exams. These six units include:
- Maths for Engineers;
- Science for Engineering;
- Principles of Mechanical Engineering;
- Mechanical Design;
- Computer Aided Design;
- Electronic Principles.
Each unit is unique in that it directly specialises in the key principles of engineering and helps to develop critical skills needed for the entire industry. My favourite units were Maths for Engineers and Science for Engineers, because although both are written exam units, they focused on my strongest suit (maths, physics, equations and numbers).
A valuable and unique type of education
The UTC gives a valuable and unique type of education that isn’t found in traditional sixth forms. The biggest draw for me was the great connections the school has with highly esteemed companies such as Rolls Royce and Siemens that allows the school to work with them, as well as the students, in creating relationships and opportunities to educate us further and build long term connections.
Prior to attending the UTC, I attended a traditional school that focused mainly on traditional EBacc subjects that can lead us straight into Russell Group universities. Although I fully agree that these subjects are necessary and extremely helpful, the school was less focused on exploring industrial routes and giving students the opportunities to find alternative pathways.
Since studying at the UTC, I have been able to participate in so many work experience opportunities that I may not have been so lucky to get if it wasn’t for the UTC. This is so valuable to me as I believe hands-on experience is one of the greatest ways to develop your knowledge in any industry.
Getting equipped for life in industry
For me, the chance to use real industry-standard equipment is such a great addition to traditional education. The UTC has invested lots and lots of money into quality machinery that is also used in day-to-day industrial life so that students can really understand and get a feel for working within engineering.
Another great feature of studying away from a traditional school is the chance to learn and engage with students that have made a conscious choice to study topics that also interest me, which allows us to motivate and encourage each other outside of our formal learning.
Opening doors to some incredible opportunities and working my way to the top
Once I complete my studies at the UTC I will have four great A-levels to lead me into the industry. I currently wish to explore a degree apprenticeship, possibly with a company such as Rolls Royce, in order to gain hands-on experience as well as a degree in aerospace engineering (my particular area of interest).
For most of my life, I have wanted a traditional university experience but since starting my A-levels and researching alternative routes that were introduced to me through work experience I have done at Rolls Royce and other great industrial companies, I have become especially interested in quite literally ‘working my way to the top’ through a degree-level apprenticeship. These opportunities are often difficult to find and are rarely offered but open doors to some incredible opportunities for the future and appeal more to practical working people.
The importance of social media
When I was first becoming interested in engineering, it wasn’t commonly spoken about on social media at all which made it difficult to find information that was projected towards my generation and age group. Since then, the developments and efforts made by the media to share news about big accomplishments made by women in the field have been evident and are growing day by day.
Personally, I follow many admirable women on social media that inspire me to follow my passion and one day have an incredible career myself as I find it useful to have these role models on my feed.
The influence of the media is extremely important in order to raise awareness for young people and women who may have never considered a career in this field and might find that they love it. In this generation, it is almost impossible to promote anything without the help of social media and therefore it is key to growing the industry and getting more women involved.
For me, all female engineers are admirable, as starting a career in the most male-dominated industry is a challenge. However, I especially relate to and enjoy reading about Asian women in the field as it is a close connection to myself and gives me a perspective on how I would be treated in the working world.
Not long ago, I did a podcast with a formidable mechanical engineer called Dr Shini Somara. She studied at Brunel University, completing a Bachelor’s degree in engineering and spends every day of her working career inspiring other young women to pursue a career in engineering. Having these role models is very important to me as it is key to have somebody to aspire and listen to that can guide you when you get stuck.
International Women in Engineering Day – a time for reflection
I have been celebrating International Women in Engineering Day for around three years now and it has opened up so many opportunities to learn about other amazing women in the industry.
A great aspect of the celebration is listening to other women who have all at one point been in a position of confusion or anxiety about reaching into that male-dominated world, and hearing how they used it as ammunition to get where they are today. It is now widely recognised and commonly celebrated bringing more and more awareness to the industry. For me, it gives me a chance to reflect on the path I’ve chosen to take and always convinces me that this is what I’m meant to be doing with my life.
Pushing through and focusing
The next thing to come my way will be the end of my A-levels and the decision of traditional university or a degree-level apprenticeship with a great company. Both of these options make me excited and motivated about my future and I know either way that I can use the skills I learn to secure a fantastic job in industry.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic and the difficulties faced in schools all across the world, we have all managed to push through and focus on our studies which will contribute to my next steps. I wish to keep on reading about amazing women in engineering and look forward to meeting more and more people that share my interests as you can never stop learning things from others. Finally, I am excited to see far more women in the engineering industry by the time I begin work!
Main image credit: The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre