Moving from A levels to an apprenticeship was the best thing Jamie-Leigh Clayton could have done. She’s now a successful professionally registered signaling design engineer with her sights set on management.
Jamie-Leigh Clayton discovered engineering after a year studying for her A levels. Unsure as to where she was heading, she had chosen subjects she thought she’d like, later discovering that they weren’t for her.
“I chose maths, food tech, psychology and leisure studies, but I wasn’t enjoying them at all,” she says. “I began to see that none of these subjects went together well, knew I didn’t want to go to university and started asking myself, what am I going to do?”
She considered focusing on finance but knew this meant changing all her A levels and so began to feel quite lost. Then her dad gave her some information on an apprenticeship with Westinghouse Rail Systems Ltd (now Invensys Rail Ltd) and her life changed forever.
He told her to give it a go, stating that if engineering turned out not to be for her that there were other departments, like finance or HR, she could try to move to. But with an engineer for a dad, Jamie-Leigh already knew that a career in engineering could provide many opportunities, such as a good work-life balance, the chance to work across the UK and abroad as well as not being chained to a desk.
“That was quite appealing, so I applied and took it from there. At first I thought oh my god I’m working with trains, but I discovered I really enjoyed the engineering and loved the intellectual challenge.”
Having completed her three-year railway signalling design apprenticeship, Jamie-Leigh now works as an assistant signalling design engineer on the Victoria Line Upgrade project she began working on as an apprentice. Her work can involve making amends to signalling equipment room drawing through to making design alterations that have come in from testers and installers on-site and in the design office.
IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year
When it came to the IET’s Young Woman Engineer (YWE) of the Year award, Jamie-Leigh first heard about this from a colleague and liked the idea of applying.
“I thought it could be quite good because you get the opportunity to network, plus go into schools and promote engineering – something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve gone into a local school on an industrial day and really enjoyed it, so the chance to do more sounded really great,” she enthuses.
“My award can make a huge difference, YWE is highly recognised by employers and this could open up a lot of opportunities,” she continues. “But from speaking to a past winner, it depends what you put into it, so it’s up to you what you manage to get out of the experience.”
Becoming professionally registered as EngTech
Jamie-Leigh is clearly keen to make the most of her career, taking every opportunity that comes her way. In April 2011 she became professionally registered as an Engineering Technician (EngTech) - the first Invensys apprentice to do so.
She heard about EngTech when an IET staff member visited the site, decided to apply and the rest is history. The company was hugely proud of her success and told her story in the in-house magazine, which has since led to many colleagues turning to her for advice!
“I’ve had people coming up to me asking what they need to do to achieve EngTech and asking if I can help with their application,” she says. “Many of the apprentices now email me going ‘help! What do I need to do?’.
“If you’re an apprentice it’s not actually that hard to achieve as you’ve done all the work during your apprenticeship,” she explains. “It’s just a matter of literally writing the details onto a form. I think people don’t realise its not that bad. It just takes one person to get the ball rolling and then others begin to think ‘hey, I can achieve that’.”
Jamie-Leigh’s not going to stop at EngTech though; she plans to continue stepping up the professional ladder, next working toward Incorporated Engineer (IEng) and then later Chartered Engineer (CEng).
“I always thought I couldn't go for IEng or CEng because I don’t have a HND or degree, but having read the details I’ve discovered that it may be easier if you have them, but you can still achieve these if you’ve gained enough experience in the right areas,” she notes.
Looking forward Jamie-Leigh hopes to eventually move into management, possibly within project engineering.
“I like the idea of project engineering because it still has technical aspects as well as the opportunity to interface more with people,” she explains. “I don’t want to be purely sitting in an office doing technical or just talking with people, I want a combination of both. First however, I’m going to work towards a team leader or line manager role.”
To achieve these goals, Jamie-Leigh hopes to join Invensys’ mentoring project, which will allow her to mentor new apprentices. She has also begun a leadership and management degree via the Open University. With her determination to succeed, we’re sure she’ll go far.