Phillipa’s Story

25 years old, Workington

Where did you grow up?


What did you study in higher education?

I have just completed a Foundation Degree in Plant Engineering (Quality Management) and have started my BEng(Hons) in Plant Engineering (Nuclear Plant and Process Technology). This is provided by the University of Cumbria, delivered by GEN2 Training and I am employed by Sellafield Ltd.

Why did you decide on this area?

I didn’t know anything about Quality Management at first but soon realised that this was a great career and course choice for myself as it was focused on attention to detail, customer satisfaction and driving continuous improvement; all activities and skills that I enjoy partaking in.

Why did you decide on this university and employer?

Both Sellafield Ltd and the University of Cumbria have a fantastic reputation in my region and I knew that enrolling on this degree apprenticeship would give me a first-class experience of working and studying for a degree simultaneously.

What did you want to be as a child?

I wasn’t certain what I wanted to have a career in, I thought that I might be a History teacher because I loved the subject. However further on in my education, I realised that a teaching career wasn’t what I really wanted to do as I thought I would be more suited to a corporate environment.

Has your career or education taken any unexpected turns?

I graduated with a History and Philosophy degree from Lancaster University and alongside this, I completed a Human Resources and Recruitment internship. Due to this internship, I decided that I wanted to have a career in HR, but after having a job in recruitment in my home town I decided that it was not something I wanted to do long-term and so I decided to look for a career change. That is when I decided to apply for a Plant Engineering Degree Apprenticeship as I was keen to work in Quality Management and further my education in this area.

Why did you decide to study for a degree?

I wasn’t sure what career I wanted to go into when I was at school, but I always knew I wanted to study for a degree at university as I have always enjoyed researching, learning and testing my ability.

What did you study at sixth form / college?

I studied English Language, History and Philosophy and Ethics at A Level. I had always really enjoyed humanities subjects and so these seemed like the most suitable choices.

What support did you get?

My secondary school and sixth form were very supportive and arranged trips to university open days so that we could find out more about the courses on offer. My parents also took me to other open days at the universities that I thought would be the most suitable for me.

What’s the best thing about studying with your university/employer? What’s the best thing about your course?

My course is a fantastic opportunity to work and study in my home town by gaining a degree and work full time alongside this. This means that I can gain all the necessary hands-on experience at my place of work and can then apply my course modules to daily work activities.

Did you find anything difficult about applying for and/or starting a degree?

When applying for my Degree Apprenticeship, there were a lot of stages to go through before gaining a place on the course. For example, there were aptitude tests that we had to take at the start of the process. This was something that I had never done before, however GEN2 provided all the relevant information so that I could practice beforehand; ensuring that I was confident going into the test.

What are you looking forward to the most about finishing your apprenticeship?

I am looking forward to obtaining my BEng in Plant Engineering and completing my degree apprentice competencies alongside this. Then I will be able to apply everything that I have learnt over the past five years to help me forge my career.

Any tips for anyone choosing to study your course?

I would recommend that people choose a STEM subject at A Level; if given the opportunity again I would have chosen one of these subjects as it will help greatly when it comes to deciding on your career. Not only does it give you an understanding of a technical field, but it also demonstrates that you have analytical as well as problem solving skills that will be appealing in any career.

What advice would you give to someone from your area?

I would recommend a degree apprenticeship to anyone in the area if they wished to remain here. It’s a chance to study, work full time and earn a wage without taking out any student loans.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

I hope I will still be working at Sellafield Ltd and using the skills I have learned to help establish my career and encourage others to join a STEM profession.