From Apprentice to Automation Production Engineer: National Apprenticeship Week 2022
To mark National Apprenticeship Week 2022, Guidance Automation’s Ollie Sharratt shares his journey from Apprentice to Production Engineer and offers his advice on how to get started in the automation industry.
How long have you been with Guidance Automation?
I started in September 2016, so almost five and a half years.
What is your role at Guidance Automation?
I work on a range of different things; the main bulk being developing production process improvements. But also, some of the developing, testing and productionising of our new products. I also have some time taken up maintaining the IT systems here.
Where did you go to college and what qualifications do you have?
I have attended Leicester College almost every year since I started at Guidance Automation, meaning I now have a Higher National Certificate in Electrical / Electronic Engineering. I am currently working on the Higher National Diploma.
How did you begin your apprenticeship journey?
The apprenticeship for me was really my first professional step into this industry, as before, my work experience comes down to a bowling alley and a chip shop! But I knew I wanted to head into an electronics-based industry and luckily for me this is what popped up.
What support was available to you during your apprenticeship and how long did your apprenticeship last?
I was lucky enough that there were colleagues with lots of experience in the course I was taking on, meaning I always had opportunity to ask for advice. The variety in my work meant that I always had something new to use as a project.
What advice would you give to someone considering an apprenticeship?
Do not consider this to be the same as taking on a college course, the one day a week at college and the rest working makes for a larger variety and makes the college side more enjoyable. I personally was struggling with a full week of college and would never go back.
What is your area of expertise?
Electronics my real area of expertise, however I have been able to really take on a lot of opportunities with the software side.
What is your favourite part of the job?
I do not really have a favourite part of the job but really any project I take on or get involved in where I get the opportunity to learn how something new to me works, or a new programming language is always a great experience.
What sets Guidance Automation apart as an employer?
The plethora of opportunity made available to every employee meaning it is a great place to progress with their career.
Can you give us an idea of how long a typical project takes to deliver and what is involved?
For me every project can be vastly different, but they all consist of a similar structure. Once the idea has come about, there is some time taken to scope out the project to understand what will be required. Then there is the development / change time. Once that is complete, the project must be tested and validated before it can finally be implemented. Some projects can be super short up to a week; however, I have an ongoing project that is onto over a year.
Are you working on any current projects or products that you wish to share?
My biggest project is the replacement / upgrade of the production testing software suite.
What are three words you would use to describe Guidance Automation?
Accommodating, flexible and adaptive.
What is your primary goal in your role as Production Engineer?
To streamline our processes here without a reduction in quality, as we grow and introduce more products.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My days vary, but generally I’ll look at open tickets to see if anything needs prioritising, then begin work on the highest priority job or project.
From a work viewpoint what has the Covid-19 pandemic been like for you so far?
It has not affected me personally as my job has continued with the added benefit of sometimes working from home, which I find it can be far easier to focus at. But the major issue has been component shortages, which has affected both newly developed circuit boards or ones used in production where alternative solutions have had to be found and tested.
How do Guidance Automation’s products and solutions stand out from competitors?
As we are lucky enough to develop all components of a solution ourselves, we can modify this to suit customers needs as and when is required.
What do you like / dislike most about your job?
I like the variety I get to work on meaning there is always something new to learn and get involved with. I don’t like it when days are wasted on a project if a theory does not work in practice!
How has Guidance Automation helped you in your career development?
Due to the nature of the products and solutions we work on there has always been opportunity to be involved in something new, and with that there has always been someone around with more experience in that field meaning I can always get advice.
What would you do for a career if you weren’t doing this?
I would either have joined my dad, working on Air Conditioning, or attempted something more mechanical in the car industry.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I get a lot of enjoyment working on cars, from building engines to wiring / anything in between. A little different to the day job!
What’s one thing you can’t live without?