When the time came to pick a career path, Tom Hunt wasn’t entirely sure which way to go. He’d always liked electronics and taking things apart to see how they worked, but wasn’t sure how to turn his passion into a full-time occupation.
Tom took the decision to apply for an apprenticeship programme through a local engineering college, and was surprised when he got a call from MK Electric.
“I was really pleased when MK got in touch, I knew they were a major manufacturer in the area, but I wasn’t sure if they’d have opportunities for someone who was just beginning their career. Following that initial conversation, I was invited on a tour of MK’s manufacturing site in Southend, Essex, where I spoke with its managers and had an interview – my first ever with a company!
“Although I didn’t have much experience, the interview was more focused on my enthusiasm and interest in the industry – I think the team could tell how passionate I was about working within the electrical industry, and I got an offer straight away.”
Tom knew he had a lot to learn, and had assumed it would be a while until he was involved in the practical elements of the job. However, once he was on site, it became clear that he would have plenty of opportunities to get stuck into ‘doing the doing’.
“As soon as we got going, it was very hands-on – and not just on site. We also went on trips to conventions, and to see suppliers and new machines. It’s all about building that base knowledge and gaining confidence – the earlier you learn that, the better.”
Part of the experience of being an MK Electric apprentice is seeing different engineering roles. While Tom was given the chance to learn about a variety of disciplines across the site, he found that he was most interested in plastic moulding.
He learned the process from start to finish, from raw materials to finished product, and began work in quality standards. As part of this, Tom worked to optimise a new tooling and moulding machine that reduced the cycle time by 30 per cent, allowing the plant to produce millions more units per year.
This project won Tom the highly coveted 2019 BEAMA Young Manufacturer of the Year award, a well-deserved reflection of his exceptional development over the course of his apprenticeship.
Tom traces the success of that award, and his overall performance through the program, back to his apprenticeship at MK Electric.
“I wouldn’t be the engineer I am today without my mentor and my manager. They’ve been so generous, teaching me, helping me, and building my confidence. Apprentices are only as good as their support team, and mine was great. They struck the perfect balance between letting me drive and pushing me when needed, that’s what really made the experience so valuable.”
Tom completed his apprenticeship at MK Electric and now has a full-time job with the company as a process engineer. He knows the benefits of his apprenticeship didn’t end with his graduation.
“Some of the other people I went to school with became apprentices too and we ask each other questions about projects all the time. I look around at the people here, and some of the highest-level workers started as apprentices. Beginning your career as an apprentice is a huge help in so many ways.”
With this in mind, Tom believes that more businesses should be opening their doors to apprentices: “I’d really like more people to learn about them, especially in engineering. There are plenty of people looking for a way into the industry, and it would be great to see other businesses offer the kind of experience which MK Electric has given me.
“These schemes are a win-win, they provide a foot in the door for the apprentice, and the opportunity to nurture and develop talent for the employer, so hopefully we’ll see more and more roles appearing.
“There are so many people who don’t know how to find the right path. With an apprenticeship, you can base your profession on something you enjoy, and build your goals around that. MK’s apprentice program led me to the perfect job, and I would encourage anybody with an interest in engineering to consider a similar scheme.”