Q&A with Alex Collins - Compliance / Maintenance at Brafe Engineering Ltd
What is it about mechanical engineering that interests you the most?
Being able to use the skills I have learned in one area and applying them to more or less anything else. I was trained to fix lathes, but quickly realised that even the most advanced mechanical systems are made up of essentially the same components, so it was interesting to work on everything from cars to hydraulic systems and be able to apply the same principles to figure out how they work.
How is the industry changing for the better?
In the last few years I’ve seen a real drive towards apprenticeships and in up-skilling the engineering workforce. As someone who works as an apprentice mentor, I think this is an excellent move and allows the next generation to be enthused about engineering. It gives opportunities for those of us who already have our qualifications.
Why did you become a member of SOE and professional sector IPlantE?
I was on a course a couple of years ago, discussing professional registration with the course leader – a member of the SOE – and he suggested it to me. I researched the organisation and was impressed by the amount of resources and support it gives, especially to young engineers, so I applied for an apprentice membership and have continued since then, even after completing my course.
What did you most enjoy about your apprenticeship?
I loved being given the freedom to explore the company, for which I work. I could go into any department and learn about the process and the reasons behind why we do things the way we do. It gave me a good overview of lots of different types of engineering. Training as a maintenance apprentice allowed me to understand the plant that I was working with in much greater depth.
Would you recommend taking that route to others?
Absolutely. With the skills shortage in engineering and the new focus that the government has put on raising the number of apprentices, now is an excellent time to get into engineering. Doing an apprenticeship let me earn money whilst getting the same qualifications as I would have at university, and gave me years of practical experience as well. It has allowed me to gain professional registration at a relatively young age, while also giving me a broad understanding of engineering that I wouldn’t have got from a classroom alone.