My engineering sponsored degree at Dyson

Niamh is studying for an engineering degree and is able to apply what she's learning on real projects straight away.
Niamh doesn't feel like she is missing out on the university experience as she works and studies side by side with other school leavers. She will gain an engineering degree.

Niamh is an undergraduate engineer at Dyson. She is studying for an engineering degree at Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology.

  • 2014 – carried out work experience at Fulbrook Middle School
  • 2013–2017 – worked part-time as a waitress and then later as a waitress while studying for her GCSEs and A Levels.
  • 2017 – completed A levels in maths, further maths and physics
  • 2017 – joined Dyson Institute

Niamh says...

I've been working in the electronics hardware team at Dyson, specialising in motor drives. The motor contols so much in every machine so it's been really varied: I've spent time learning about the equipment in the lab and then using it to test motors and interpret the data. I also spent four weeks in an electronics lab, where I was making voltage protection boxes, developing practical skills, and getting to know what different components look like and how they fit together.

How I spend my time

I spend three days a week working in a team of experienced engineers and have two days a week for lectures or study time – our teaching areas are on the Dyson campus and external professors come in to lead each session. At the end of the four years, I will receive a bachelor of engineering (BEng) degree. On top of this, I am getting all of the in-house training for new engineers at Dyson.

The highlight has been learning the basic building blocks that I'll use throught my whole career. Small things, but together they make me feel like I'm growing into an accomplished engineer. It's exciting to know that my work will make an impact on what will be a real-world product one day.

Balancing studying and work

Balancing your time between the job, coursework and rest is important. Taking on so much at once, it's difficult not to feel overwhelmed at times. You can't commit all your time to your studies because you have professional responsibilities; it's very different to studying for A levels. I knew I would need time management skills so I researched a few techniques: I used a technique called 'Pomodoro' in year 12 but now I use one called 'MoSCoW'. It's good to take on something difficult so young because then everything else will feel easier in the future! It shows that you're not afraid of hard work.

Deciding on the Dyson Institute

I knew that some university graduates were still not being considered employable because of their lack of practical experience. I also knew that I learned best by getting hands on. Then my mum showed me something she had seen about the Dyson Institute, which solved both problems for me. University also seemed so unaffordable; I didn't want to be living in my overdraft for years. I saw this opportunity as a way of gaining experience and a degree, earning a salary and potentially ending up with no debt.

I think the communication skills I developed from my job on reception at a Mercedes-Benz garage helped me stand out when applying. Being able to simply communicate technical knowledge is a skill that engineers need. I also did lots of maths tutoring, which helped me develop how I talk about complex scenarios.

My school friends

Pretty much all of my friends have gone to university and a couple have done a gap year or gone travelling. They go out partying a lot more than me, but it doesn't bother me too much. We have a good social group here as undergraduates and have been out to Bristol so I don't feel like I'm missing out. Because there's such a small cohort (year group) here, living and working together, you get to form some really good friendships. Diamonds are formed under pressure! I also think I've grown up more than my friends at university. Here you're thrown straight into a job you wouldn't usually have until you are a few years older, so you mature quickly.

Future plans

I'd like to work on a project that changes people's lives. For example the Dyson hairdryer transformed how people dry their hair and that's really rewarding for those engineers. I would also like to get invovled in promoting engineering as a career choice, by going into schools or volunteering with the James Dyson Foundation, for example. I want to share my experience and how much I've enjoyed pursuing a career I'm passionate about.

Advice for school leavers

There are a lot of school leaver opportunities out there – try to speak to people doing something already and ask them as many questions as you can. Choose the employer and location carefully – visit before and make sure you can feel at home there.

When you start it's important to demonstrate the level of maturity that is required in the workplace. You've got to know when you can and can't behave like an A level student. Show independance and a desire to develop and learn, and that you can manage your time – don't be late!

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