The power of work experience

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Your Future Career – Looking For the Best Route or

‘Look Before You Leap’

Getting the A level grades you were aiming for is an important milestone so just imagine the sense of disappointment if your results turn out to be one grade short of requirements for the two universities that you had selected as being the best for your degree. This might seem a body blow especially if you have been led to believe that the only way to success is via university.

In fact, Chesham born and bred Charlie Yerrell’s educational progress had often been on a bit of a knife edge.  Charlie gained excellent GCSE results at school with 1 A* 4As and 7Bs but he did not enjoy the 6th form as he would have preferred something more practical that took account of his level of maturity.

So what did he do next?  One option was going into the UCAS clearing scheme, but Charlie realised that he might end up at a university on a course neither of which were really right for him.  So, with the encouragement of his father, from August of 2011 he worked every weekday between 9-5, contacting large engineering firms by email, phone and on-line, looking for employment.

As it happened, during his GCSEs he had enjoyed a week’s work experience with Silverson and so he contacted Alan Pepper, Head of Engineering who invited him to come in for an interview.  This was a happy coincidence as Harold Rothman, Silverson’s Managing Director had  begun to realise that while the business was doing very well, there was a major problem on the horizon, namely the fact that 1/3 of the workforce was due to retire in the next 5-7 years.

So Charlie was offered a job on the shop floor as a progress chaser and started in September 2011.  However, Charlie had realised that he needed to have further education if he was to achieve a successful career.  This was discussed with Alan Pepper and the company agreed to Charlie studying part time for a 2 year HNC in Mechanical Engineering at Bucks New University (BNU).  Having missed the 2011 start he commenced this course in September 2012.

In 2014, having achieved a distinction (the top grade) the company then sponsored him to study for a BEng in Mechanical Engineering at BNU.  This involves 4 ½ days at Silverson and 1.00pm – 7.00pm at BNU on the other half day.  This began in September and he is looking forward to completing the course in July 2017, graduating in September.

Charlie is focussed on achieving results both on the job and at college, enjoying the course as its contents has real relevance to his work, which was lacking for him at school.  The course includes modules covering Materials, Materials analysis, Thermofluids (Heat transfer, Thermodynamics, Fluid mechanics and Combustion) and CAD/CAM etc.

Charlie is delighted with both the decision he made to enter the world of work at 18 and the progress both within the company and educationally.  From his perspective at the age of 24 he will have:

  • Gained a sponsored degree with no debt
  • Earned a wage in the meanwhile
  • 6 years of really valuable experience

He has already been promoted to position of Assistant Shop Foreman and is responsible for the workflow through the factory which is effectively a project management task requiring a wide range of skills and knowledge:

  • Checking incoming orders from the sales team to ensure their accuracy
  • Ordering of workloads on the shop floor
  • Planning the work load through the various machines
  • Chasing progress to provide Sales with expected completion dates
  • Repairs/refurbishments (Machines can last up to 20 years, average 10, A common problem is with seals which can be replaced. Other problems can be caused by poor engineering practices by clients)
  • Receipt and issue of electric motors for use on Silverson mixers
  • Allocations of serial numbers for each unit and management of records of all machines manufactured
  • Troubleshooting of machining/assembly issues

Charlie sees his future as remaining with Silverson and will most likely be linked to production but perhaps in more of a senior role off the shop floor.

What we learn from Charlie’s story is once you have decided on a particular career then it makes perfect sense to think hard about the best route to take you there rather than just accept the current received wisdom.

To find work experience opportunities go to

PH 10-04-17