Jordan Cook, Airbus Degree Apprentice

Find out how Jordan plans to become a top engineer through his apprenticeship at Airbus

Jordan is realising his dream of becoming a top engineer with a degree apprenticeship at Airbus. After turning down top university offers, Jordan’s opted for a path that lets him gain direct experience at Airbus combined with academic study, putting him on course for success. Jordan’s achievements were recently recognised when he was crowned Higher or Degree Apprentice of the Year for the South West at the National Apprenticeship Awards 2017.

Choosing a passion 

Jordan, 21, has always had a passion for the aerospace industry. After taking A-levels in maths, physics and DT, he originally intended to study aerospace engineering at university but changed his mind after hearing about the Airbus Engineering Degree Apprenticeship, which offered the chance to gain a degree, work experience and a wage from day one.

Despite thinking it was a long shot, Jordan successfully overcome a tough application process of interviews, team design challenges and numeracy tests to be offered a place. However, he believes that it was his enthusiasm that was the deciding factor: “I had a real passion for aerospace engineering, so I could just be myself,” he explains, “when I was offered the place I knew I wanted to go for it.”

Jordan was one of the only people from his school to turn down university and remembers surprise at his choice. He explains: “At school they were more focused on university - but I didn’t feel it was the right option for me.” Over two years on, Jordan is close to completing his apprenticeship degree. On top of gaining a BEng degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of the West of England, Jordan will have almost three and a half years’ industry experience to help propel him up the career ladder.

Learning from the best 

Jordan’s degree apprenticeship sees him working in different disciplines across the business, each placement lasting between three and six months. This has given him a growing knowledge of each aspect of the business and valuable insight into specific challenges faced by design engineers, such as aircraft stress, damage tolerance and fatigue. He delivers a presentation at the end of each placement allowing him to reflect on his achievements and seek advice for improvement.

Jordan has been able to do the same work as employees who have been there for decades, bringing his own ideas to projects and using his skills to deliver real impact. “It’s a steep learning curve but you quickly become an integral part of the team and everyone really trusts you,” Jordan explains. “In my design placement I developed and modelled a component which became the new baseline moving forward, which was really exciting.”

Finding the right balance

Jordan’s path hasn’t been all been plain sailing. Combining work at Airbus alongside his degree requirements has been a big challenge. Jordan credits the support of his colleagues as being vital to his success by helping him develop his time management and planning skills. He says: “Airbus are there to support you and are happy to give you the time you need to carry out your learning commitments. They’re very keen on helping you grow both as an employee and as an individual.” Jordan has also been able to benefit from professional development courses, from dignity at work training to computer aided design. He adds: “The extra training you receive really helps you to get used to a regular work environment.”

Growing confidence

Becoming an apprentice has helped Jordan in a range of ways outside of work. He has no student debt and earns a good salary, allowing him to afford good holidays and hobbies like kiteboarding. He also currently rents a flat with another apprentice and is saving to become a homeowner. Other benefits have included the chance to travel, and Jordan has taken part in team building courses in the Lake District and the French Alps as well as attending other international events.

Perhaps most importantly however, Jordan’s apprenticeship has boosted his confidence enormously, which has opened doors both in his personal and professional life. He explains: “Public speaking was always something I found a bit intimidating, but I’ve really improved – I feel like I’ve been able to mature quickly thanks to working with such a diverse range of people.” Stand-out moments so far include being given the opportunity to get hands on with an A320 aircraft at Bristol airport and going to the Paris Air Show, which he describes as “like Christmas!”

Jordan says that developing a wide skillset has been a big benefit too. “An apprenticeship doesn’t just equip you with technical knowledge but with people skills as well, which are so important today. I recently went back to my school to give a talk about my apprenticeship - it’s one of those things that’s not shouted about enough.”

Future ambitions

Jordan is moving from strength to strength. In 2017 he was crowned Higher or Degree Apprentice of the Year for the South West at the National Apprenticeship Awards 2017 – and has big ambitions for the future. “In five or ten years I’d like to be managing a small team of people in a design office and ultimately managing an entire aircraft programme,” he explains. “I’m looking into a Masters programme in Management to help me achieve this as well.”

Had he not taken up his apprenticeship, Jordan would have chosen a degree but admits he would be a lot further away from his current level of experience. He believes those with strong career ambitions should consider becoming an apprentice: “With so many people going to university it’s very difficult to make yourself stand out,” he explains, “but by doing an apprenticeship you can really differentiate yourself and build a lasting relationship with an exciting company.”

Looking back, Jordan is glad that he had the confidence to choose an apprenticeship and take a step into the unknown. He explains: “Before I started I wasn’t sure what an engineering job would entail and whether it would be for me - but I quickly knew I’d made the right decision.” While Jordan’s journey hasn’t always been easy, he has no regrets about his choice. “Going into a full-time job when the rest of your friends have so much holiday at university has been difficult,” he explains. “Sometimes, I did wonder whether I’ve made the right decision, but then I think: absolutely. It’s a priceless opportunity. I’m in my last year of my degree apprenticeship and am confident about my future, whereas lots of my friends at university are now starting to worry about jobs.”