Sellafield: Rachel

‘There is never a dull moment’

Rachel Gleaves, control systems degree apprentice, on her experience on a degree apprenticeship:

When I was younger, my idea of a dream job was to be a part time ballerina, part time hairdresser but I was fascinated with problem solving and my favourite lessons at school where maths and science – a tad different! It wasn’t until I started studying for my GCSEs that I considered engineering as a future career. I heard about degree apprenticeships schemes through career fairs and as I had previously been considering going down the traditional university route; an apprenticeship seemed like a great combination of on-the-job experience whilst working towards my degree.  I am now close to completing my third year as a control systems degree apprentice at Sellafield Ltd, having completed a performance engineering operations qualification and various technology-based training projects.

I joined the Legacy Ponds Retrievals team last year and my work involves improving and implementing modifications to programable electronic systems. I work amongst experienced engineers supporting the retrieval processes within one of the most hazardous nuclear plants in Europe, delivering continuous improvements to drive performance across the facility. My team are always there to guide me and improve my understanding of the systems we maintain. The systems I support range from state-of-the-art technology to legacy equipment which is now deemed obsolete. The work is challenging to say the least, but I am always met with support, and I am able to discuss with my manager how I feel I am progressing and what challenges I would like to try and tackle next.

Whilst doing all of this, I attend university once a week to work towards gaining a foundation degree in plant engineering (instrumentation and control). Here I study a range of different engineering disciplines, enhancing my technical knowledge of operations carried out both at Sellafield Ltd and across the nuclear industry.

My favourite element of my apprenticeship is the sheer number of opportunities I am able to get involved with and contribute towards. There is never a dull moment and I’m always surrounded by great people who are helping me on my way to become a qualified engineer.

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