ENGINEERING AN APPRENTICESHIP – EMILY FRENCH

: Between 2014 and 2015 there were over 500,000 new apprentices in England alone. Apprenticeships provide young people the opportunity to combine practical training with study – all while earning a wage. For me taking on a subsea engineering apprenticeship was an exciting opportunity because it was an opportunity to have not only a job at the end of my apprenticeship, but a career that I could continue to learn and develop from.

I joined JDR in 2012, straight out of college, where I was one of two students hired as the company’s first ever apprentices. During my apprenticeship I attended Hartlepool College once a week where I studied for a diploma in engineering and then a HNC in mechanical engineering.

From day one, I was involved in a range of projects that provided the opportunity to learn new, valuable skills such as the major project to manage the design, build and implementation of a class 5 cleanroom at JDR’s Hartlepool manufacturing facility.

A cleanroom is used for manufacturing items with a low level of environmental pollutants such as dust, airborne microbes, and chemical vapours at a controlled particle level. For an ISO 14644 accredited class 5 cleanroom, I had to ensure the room would have at maximum 105 particles per m3. To put this into perspective the ambient air in a typical city contains around 35 million particles per m3 – so this was no easy task.

This cleanroom enables JDR to reduce costs by manufacturing its subsea umbilical tape internally to ensure the integrity and quality of its umbilicals –  this has been traditionally manufactured externally. The tape is used after slicing to rebuild the umbilical’s insulation.

A critical success factor for the project was ensuring that when operational the room was kept clean. Employees are the number one reason for contamination of cleanrooms. For example, a motionless person standing or seated in a cleanroom emits over 100,000 particles per minute. Therefore, I had to develop and implement a set of standard working procedures.

Following the project completion, I received two awards – the Hartlepool College Engineering Apprentice of the Year and the overall Hartlepool College Apprentice of the Year. Now in my fourth year with JDR, I’ve completed my apprenticeship and have been promoted to a junior production engineer. I’m now responsible for the storage capacity strategy of the Hartlepool facility.

The prospects available in the subsea sector are exciting and varied, and importantly offer apprentices the chance to develop vital skills in the workplace. Apprenticeships also represent an opportunity to companies who can develop and retain the next generation of talented engineers.

My apprenticeship experience at JDR was absolutely fantastic. I wasn’t sure what to expect, being one of the first two apprentices in the history of the company. But, it has been such an exciting journey and I’m thrilled to have been employed on a permanent basis in the role of junior production engineer. The team are incredibly supportive and are always happy to share their experience and knowledge with me. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds at JDR.

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