Aaron Noble always knew he wanted to go into engineering. He thought the word ‘engineer’ sounded ‘cool’ but he also knew he wanted to continue with some form of education. 

In the end, an apprenticeship appealed to Aaron because, for him, it was the best way to study and gain practical experience.

“I’ve realised how important it is in the industry to get that experience as well as backing it up with a qualification,” said Aaron, who works as an engineering technician apprentice at Element Materials Technology, a global provider of testing, inspection, and certification services. He also serves as a Siddall STEM Champion with the University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre.

Siddall STEM Champions are named after and championed by Graham and Brenda Siddall. Graham is a retired Silicon Valley CEO who grew up in Attercliffe in the 1950s, whose life was changed by an apprenticeship. Graham has thrown his full support behind the AMRC Training Centre, promoting STEM and engineering apprenticeships to the local communities through Siddall STEM Champions.

It was Aaron’s ‘brilliant’ GCSE engineering teacher, Samuel Booth, who introduced him to the AMRC Training Centre.

“He really inspired me to enrol. I just really enjoyed his lessons and thought, if I’m going to do something, that’s what I want to do,” said Aaron, who believes apprenticeships are good for future careers because ‘academia helps you understand your work more’.

“If you've got that educational background, you'll be able to take the work you do in the company further, and to a higher standard, a higher level of understanding.”

Aaron also acknowledges the benefits of earning money whilst gaining experience and qualifications, adding: “It’s not about the money, but it’s helpful to be able to support yourself whilst in education, and it gives you experience in looking after your money too.”

At the start of his apprenticeship with Element Materials Technology, Aaron spent time on rotation to get a feel for different departments and to find out what he wanted to do. 

He said: “I’m proud of the skills I’ve developed whilst working alongside our different teams. I’m now able to work across departments flexibly and help where needed.”

On the challenges of apprenticeships, Aaron jokes that ‘getting up in the morning’ was a huge challenge as he used to a 9am-3pm school day, but he now feels adjusted to the daily routine.

For prospective apprentices, Aaron’s best advice is to be yourself and be inquisitive. He said: “Your number one role as an apprentice is to ask questions; you’re there to learn from experienced people who are eager to teach, so take advantage of that and show an interest.

“They’re not just hiring you for your skills, because you're an apprentice and you're going to learn those skills, they're hiring you because they think you’re going to work well with their team. I think if you can show the personal side of yourself during an interview process, they're going to like you more and see you fitting into that team.

“You want to put your best foot forward, but your own foot. Be the best version of yourself.”