David graduated from the UTC in summer 2017, and is now an undergraduate engineer at the prestigious Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology. Opting for a degree apprenticeship, as opposed to a traditional degree, means he works three days a week alongside Dyson’s global engineering team, while studying for an engineering degree from the University of Warwick.
‘Going into electronics or engineering was set in stone for me before I joined, but going to the Dyson Institute isn’t very conventional, and I know a lot of schools discouraged people from doing it,’ he says. ‘While some schools chase 100% of their students going to university, it’s not always right for everyone, and the UTC was willing to look into different paths for me. They were willing to push for it and help me in any way possible. It really complemented what I was interested in and what I was good at…
‘I knew a few older people from my school that had moved to the UTC,’ says David. ‘Talking to them, they were all enjoying themselves and having a good time. When I went to have a look around, I was struck by how friendly and encouraging it was. Feedback was taken differently and there was more involvement between staff and students. I think my ability to talk to people – especially people who’re more senior, or older than me – has really been helped by that, which is good for interviews and my job.
‘Although my commute was more than an hour, I was ready to break out of my comfort zone. It would have been easy to stay at my old school, and I kept in touch with my friends there, but it was good to meet new people and new staff. Being in a city centre had a different atmosphere – everything had a faster pace. Commuting gave me a different insight and perspective into normal working life – it was more reflective of that, than school. Sticking to a rigorous timetable was more like a job, which helped when I did my work experience, and I felt more independent.’
“This ticked more boxes for me. And a friend’s dad, who runs his own business, told me how many university students were unprepared for the world of work. Suddenly, it was a no brainer for me.”
“The education is a given, so they’re looking for what sets you aside – work experience and projects. They really make a difference.”
Studying A Levels in physics, maths, further maths and an AS in chemistry, David had already begun university applications and received his offers before he opted for a degree apprenticeship. ‘Talking to other people who’d gone to university changed my mind,’ he says. ‘There’s the debt, and then the social life isn’t that great once the work kicks in. Having a massive summer is good, but most people seemed to spend it working. This ticked more boxes for me. And a friend’s dad, who runs his own business, told me how many university students he found were unprepared for the world of work. Suddenly, it was a no brainer for me.
‘Now I work within a team on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays,’ he says. ‘Then on Wednesdays and Thursdays have lectures and tuition. I spend working days delivering projects, and have rotated between the electronics, software and mechanics teams this year. While my degree will take four years instead of three, I don’t pay tuition fees, and earn a salary for my work.’
The UTC gave David the time he needed to work on his application, alongside time for phone and physical interviews. ‘Whenever there was anything that needed doing they helped me out,’ he says, ‘and it is a lengthy process compared with other universities, including a hefty application form and online tests.
‘And my work experience, with a company called BrainBoxes, really helped with my interviews. Not everything’s about the academic results – more and more people are interested in what you’ve been doing outside work and school; what experiences you have alongside the education. The education is a given, so they’re looking for what sets you aside – work experience and projects. They really make a difference.’