'Joining BAE Systems is one of the best decisions I've made,' manufacturing graduate Jane Eccles says. 'I've learned more about what I enjoy and where I want to take my career – and my confidence has grown too.' Jane is just about to finish her two-year graduate programme at BAE Systems and specialises in manufacturing within the company's air business.
She graduated from Leeds University with a BEng in medical engineering in 2016. 'I didn't have to go into a medical field with my degree,' she says. 'I applied to BAE Systems because, being a leading defence and security company, it was a given that they would be working on the cutting edge. The products I discovered during my background research were really exciting.' Jane actually can't give away too much about the precise details of what she's working on, but confirms that the technology and products more than live up to her background research.
The graduate programme Jane is on is structured around four placements; graduates start in their original function but have a choice over the others. 'I know that many of my fellow graduates do choose to try different things, but I chose to stay within manufacturing,' says Jane. 'I wanted to stay in Lancashire for personal reasons and I just knew that manufacturing was right for me – but I always knew that I could try something else if I wanted to.'
Jane's time on her rotations has given her a good overview of manufacturing. Her placements involved: looking at manufacturing strategy and future developments across the business and products as a whole; working on the transition of manufacturing processes; and working on research and development projects. In addition, she has taken part in bespoke graduate training courses, has participated in 'stretch' assignments that has seen her go into universities as an ambassador, and has been working towards her professional registration as an engineer. 'There are so many opportunities that you are offered here and they are all fascinating,' she says. We asked her to share her highlights from the scheme and the lessons she picked up along the way.
Jane on...being trusted with work
'I've been given real work from day one; in my first day I was in a project meeting. My teams have varied in size from four to 15 and I've been the only graduate – but I was never treated as 'the graduate' but as an equal member of the team.
'One of my highlights has been when I was given an R&D project to lead. I was introduced to the project when I started the placement and was allowed to run it by myself, asking for support and guidance when I needed it. A lot of the role involved project management, keeping everyone informed and updated on progress, and I was impressed by the amount of responsibility I was given.'
Jane on...accessing a network
'I have a 'professional' mentor who is there to help me with meeting the required competencies for my professional registration, but I have lots of unofficial mentors too. There's a real culture of being able to say hello to everyone here. The graduate programme is so versatile and brings you into contact with so many different professionals – from apprentices to directors – that you know who to go to for different things. I'm still in touch with all of my placement managers and it's great just being able to ask anyone for their careers advice and for their opinions.'
Jane on...professional development
'In my first placement, I was in meetings with senior directors and managers from across the business, gaining exposure to discussions that you might not have ordinarily as a graduate, and this was really good for developing my communication skills. However, the biggest thing I learned on the scheme – and I can see the difference from when I started to now – was what time management really means in the workplace. The graduate programme really teaches you how to prioritise and organise yourself and manage your learning.
'The graduate training course has really helped me to understand myself more, as well as the working styles of different personalities. It has helped me to push myself out of my comfort zone.'
Jane on...making friends
'Some of my best mates are graduates and apprentices at BAE Systems. Through the graduate scheme, I've met graduates based as far apart as Portsmouth and Glasgow and we all stay in touch. When I joined BAE Systems, I joined a big community.'
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