Gemma Smith - Production Engineer and Higher Apprentice Gemma has big ambitions at Alpha Manufacturing and she has every reason to be excited about her career.  In just five years, having come through the Higher Apprentice route, she is now a fully-qualified Production Engineer with no limits to her capability and career aspirations.  This is Gemma’s story, a story that will inspire other students considering an Apprenticeship or Higher Apprenticeship.

When Gemma was at school, she always knew she wanted to get into business and more specifically engineering but wasn’t entirely sure what this path would look like.  She certainly didn’t anticipate that just four years into her career and still in her early 20s she’d be running the production engineering for some of Alpha’s most complex jobs.  As well as the production side of her role, Gemma has built her confidence and skills to be able to guide and direct many colleagues on the shopfloor, often working in a dynamic and high intensity environment.

Gemma tells us: “If somebody had told me four years ago that I would be a fully-fledged Production Engineer I wouldn’t have believed them. To no longer wear the badge of ‘Trainee’ is just mind-blowing, when I changed my email footer I was just overwhelmed, it’s a tiny thing but it was poignant.  I’m not an overly emotional person but all that hard work just felt worth it.

“All the way through school I knew I wanted to get into a job and start my career early but I also wanted to combine it with training and ultimately a higher-level qualification such as a degree so when I learned about Alpha Manufacturing’s Apprenticeship Scheme it ticked all my boxes and more.”

Gemma spent two years at the The JCB Academy combined with her role at Alpha Manufacturing and after completing her foundation degree, Alpha sponsored Gemma to complete her Manufacturing & Production Engineering Degree at Derby University, which she completed in 2020.  Gemma tells us more: “Combining my role at Alpha as a Higher Apprentice and furthering my studies at Derby University has worked really well for me.  I guess I wanted the best of both worlds – I wanted to start my career and begin earning money but also wanted to gain the skills and education to be able to really advance my career at Alpha.  When I say to people “I love sheet metal” I’m sure they think I’m mad, but I really do!  I love the fast pace at Alpha too, I’m surrounded by brilliant people who have really helped me nurture my skills.  I’ve had to learn very quickly about how to adapt my skills to get the best out of others, but I’ve grown in confidence in a relatively short period and now I can hold my own in most situations.”

For Gemma, her future is bright and she’s excited to see what will come next, she concludes:  “Right now, I’m loving my job, every day I come into work with a smile on my face and I look forward to the next challenge.  I’m much further ahead in my career than others of the same age and I’m glad I jumped onto the Higher Apprenticeship route – it’s put my career path right on track.”

What’s the best thing about being an Alpha Apprentice? “You learn very quickly, there are so many talented people to guide and support you.  There are tough days when you’ve got so much to take in, it can feel overwhelming but then it all just falls into place, you adjust to that very quickly.  I love working in the world of manufacturing and engineering – there are limitless opportunities for people that just want to work hard and build a career.  This is the place to do it.”

Want to read more about our Production Team? Meet Sean McColl.

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We work with businesses in a wide variety of sectors with capabilities to offer short and long runs of metal products.