Broughton Raytheon apprentice wins top UK engineering contest
Award-winning apprentice aircraft engineer Adele Hughes, 21, nearly found a career in the frozen food aisle.
But a rapid change of direction saw her career defrost and take to the skies.
After taking on an engineering NVQ, Adele joined Raytheon as an apprentice aircraft engineer in Broughton.
She took the bronze medal in the 2021 World Skills UK Competition in late November, building on a gold medal in Skills Competition Wales earlier this year.
Adele is now waiting to find out whether she will qualify for the UK national team, which will compete in a global contest in Shanghai in 2022.
But a high-flying career with defence and technology specialist Raytheon U.K. only came about after she took the decision to quit her A-Levels to take an Engineering NVQ.
Passionate about metal work and design technology, Adele had quickly discovered she enjoyed making things, but couldn’t cope with a traditional educational approach.
“I was doing maths, physics and design technology in the hopes to go to university to do some sort of engineering,” she says.
“But I really struggled with the structure of it all, and I felt like if I didn’t enjoy A-Levels and I wouldn’t enjoy university.”
“So, I thought I’d go to the engineering college and do an NVQ and do a lot more practical stuff than.”
“My brain works better that way and I seem to learn more.”
“As it worked out, three days out of five were generally hands-on work, and then the rest of our time was focused on theory, but it was really well structured so it all went hand-in-hand.”
After enrolling at Coleg Cambria in Wrexham, Adele’s enthusiasm won over her sceptical mother – “My mum says I just changed – she could immediately see the switch in me,” she says.
Her tutors were immediately focused on finding her some work experience and Adele was initially placed with a local ready meal manufacturer.
“I was helping the maintenance guys there, but it wasn’t really for me,” Adele admits.
So, after a false start, one of her instructors was able to introduce Adele to Raytheon U.K. in September 2019, and the apprentice engineer hasn’t looked back.
“The first time I was let loose on an aircraft engine I was a little bit apprehensive, because I didn’t want to do something wrong. But it’s amazing to go home and say ‘oh, I helped to do this or that.”
“I love being asked ‘what do you do?’ because people always think I’m at university, and they might not know what an apprenticeship is.”
“They’re always shocked when I tell them, ‘I work on planes’ or ‘I helped with an engine swap today’.
“There’s not really anyone else I know who can say the same thing, and that feels great.”
And with the global skills contest approaching next year, Adele remains focused on the lengthy process of earning her engineering licence, a substantial step that will see her responsible for approving aircraft as “ready to fly”.
One thing remains certain, though – “At the moment I can’t see myself sitting in an office.”
Raytheon UK training manager Lee Edison said:
“This award is a much-deserved reflection of Adele’s hard work and her commitment to learning at Raytheon.
“In a peer group of excellent apprentices, it has long been plain to see that Adele has the drive and the dedication to become an exceptional aircraft engineer.’
“I’m delighted that her ambitions have been supported by our outstanding team here at Raytheon UK in Broughton, and our academic partner Coleg Cambria.”
“We encourage all young students to look at gaining careers via apprenticeships, everyone has the opportunity to work on exciting opportunities in engineering, and we’re hugely proud to see Adele continuing to go from strength to strength.”
“We can’t wait to see what she’ll achieve next.”
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