Sam Weaver DegreeProduction Engineer Sam Weaver has achieved a lot so far in his career, from completing his apprenticeship to moving into management roles and even helping to keep operations running during the pandemic. As Sam celebrates his latest accomplishment, achieving a First-Class degree in BEng (hons) Manufacturing and Production Engineering, he looks back on his career so far, and talks about his future career aspirations.

Like many young students, Sam wasn’t sure the traditional education route was for him and desired to gain ‘real-world experience’. Sam picks up his story from here: “My school focused heavily on the ‘expected’ education route, which usually consists of; GCSEs, A-levels followed by University, and therefore information regarding alternative education was very hard to come by.

With a growing desire to get some real-world experience, I jumped at the first opportunity to complete a Level 1 Engineering course whilst working part time at a local automotive company, which allowed me to reinforce my skills with hand tools and sparked my interest in welding. When that educational path came to an end, trying to find a job with a company that was flexible enough to allow me to continue my education proved difficult. I then came across Alpha Manufacturing’s Apprenticeship Scheme advertised on the back of a local Staffordshire newspaper.

I was so pleased to be accepted onto the Alpha Apprenticeship Programme, it felt like the perfect opportunity to complete work experience whilst continuing with my education. During my apprenticeship, I moved around a number of different areas of the factory gaining experience on a rotation plan, but it was within the welding area that I excelled and in the third year of my apprenticeship, I was offered a full-time role within that department.

Whilst working in both manual welding and Robot welding, I was called into a meeting with Operations Manager, Neal Lafford and Managing Director, Paul Clews where I was asked about my future aspirations. It was here I expressed my desire to advance into a management role and I was offered a role in Business Improvement, with the goal of understanding the challenges and issues facing the company. This was an interesting time in which I gained insight into a number of different areas of the business.

About this time, the opportunity to begin a Foundation Degree in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering was presented to me, part time at the University of Derby, which I readily accepted as an chance to challenge myself and put all I have learned so far to the test.

During the first wave of COVID-19, I used my experience and skills to move back into the weld department to support our team and to keep operations running. Despite being a difficult period for both the company and me personally, I was grateful that I was able to support the company and to have something to focus on.

As things returned to normal, I started looking towards continuing my degree. Finally, after taking a one-year sabbatical to focus on my degree, I was ecstatic to receive my degree result: a First-Class BEng (hons) in Manufacturing and Production Engineering. My degree allowed me to gain an understanding and appreciation of the wider engineering environment, exposing me to techniques and knowledge that I could bring back to my role at Alpha.

Currently, I work as a Production Engineer, and my role focuses around tooling design, such as jigs and fixtures, component design and redesign, which involves much problem solving, both before and during production. I liaise with customers to ensure designs meet their specifications and to ensure that the parts are produced as efficiently as possible using our current technology.

My long-term goal is to become a Chartered Engineer, which can take upwards of 8 years. Not only is this an internationally protected title and a recognition of an engineer’s competence, but also a personal goal of mine, to be the best I can be within my field.

Find out more about our Production Team, read Gemma Smith’s story.

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