60 Seconds on…

…Degree Apprenticeships with Jess Wong

Jess Wong: Degree Apprentice at Thales
Jess Wong: Degree Apprentice at Thales
We sat down with 19 year old Jess who’s in the second year of her Degree Apprenticeship at Thales Cheadle to get the inside info on how she juggles study with work and what she really thinks of working in the rail industry.

What exactly is a degree apprenticeship?

A degree apprenticeship is basically where you learn on the job while studying and submitting coursework over four years, eventually ending up with a university degree. It’s pretty new but as a student it’s great as there’s so much support from Thales as well as Manchester Metropolitan University which delivers the course – and I get paid!

That sounds great! But how do you manage studying and working at the same time?

Oh, it was really difficult to manage at first and I struggled a bit as I didn’t expect to come straight out of college and into industry four to five years earlier than everyone else. I think I’m getting used to it now and I’m more able to manage my time properly, although I do often ask myself, should I do more coursework or do I go out?

I can see that’s a very tricky question to answer…

It is hard but it’s good because although I live in student halls, there’s a great social side to our office. I go out a lot with the other apprentices and grads here and it’s a more mature social group than I thought I’d make at uni, as they’re all generally more mature and we have money to go out and do things.

Do you identify more as a student or a young professional?

I see myself as more of a young professional because I’ve had to mature pretty quickly to work in an office environment compared to the retail job I did whilst at college. I feel like I’m at a different stage of my life than my friends’ too as I have to manage my degree and a full-time job, which is a big motivational factor to just get on with things. When adults say “just wait until you’re grown up” I used to think “what are you talking about, I’m so mature already.” You really don’t know what it’s like until you’re in industry.

Talking of industry, how is working in the rail sector as a young female?

So far it’s been great! I’ve learned lots of technical skills and am on track to become a fully-fledged software engineer – albeit a young one. I’ve still got a lot still to experience, but I’ve picked up well-rounded soft skills too from working with different teams on my rotations which I don’t think I’d get from any other route. There are lots of opportunities to progress in Thales and in the rail sector and having a four year head start on university graduates really helps.”

Thanks Jess. Finally, where do you think your degree apprenticeship will take you?

There’s a whole company and industry to explore, so I’m just going to focus on building up my experience and see what I like the most once I’ve tried different projects and roles.