When it comes to making career choices, there is a line of argument that says that there is no such thing as planning too early. Students in their last year of school could certainly take a leaf out of this book – especially if they are considering a career in the exciting and rapidly changing world of engineering.  As a discipline, engineering has a rich number of positions and opportunities available to the aspiring candidate, so it is worth taking some time to make the kind of choices that will maximise opportunities to secure that important first position.

Opportunities for school leavers to get on the first rung of the ladder

School leavers are unlikely to have a lot of relevant, engineering specific qualifications, and prospective employers won’t expect it of them. However, there are a number of ways to present skills to employers, emphasising the transferable skills learnt in the classroom. Done correctly, this will help students transition into the world of engineering. Most engineers end up with professional qualifications, be that for a Chartered Engineer (CEng), Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or perhaps an Engineering or ICT Technician (EngTech or ICTTech), but it’s entirely possible to work towards these qualifications without having a degree.

For example, the CV shouldn't just highlight exam results. Of equal importance are projects that demonstrate practical problem solving skills. Excellent transferable skills would include, for example, chess prowess, membership of science, technology, engineering or maths clubs, attending science and engineering fairs such the Big Bang Fair, or entering competitions such as those run by Young Engineers. A good CV will always be targeted towards the specific industry and employer that the application is being made to, so make sure relevant skills are brought out from experiences; for example, a student may have completed the Duke of Edinburgh award, so emphasise the team work and commitment this shows.

Think about organising relevant work experience

Relevant work experience is always useful and school or college may be able to help provide advice and guidance here.  For students doing A-levels, the Nuffield Foundation offers more than 1,000 summer research placements each year.  Options for continuing to study and combine this with work are also available - students might want to consider an apprenticeship as these allow a combination of vocational training alongside workplace experience. Students generally need a minimum of five GCSEs (or equivalent), including English, mathematics and science or technology subjects to take the apprenticeship route.

Moving into the world of full time work is always going to be very different to studying, but people employed within an interesting and evolving industry such as engineering have a range of opportunities available that should keep the work fresh and engaging. Some of the typical challenges school leavers might face within the workplace include convincing older employees that their experience and abilities are such that they can be trusted with important tasks, or that they possess the commitment necessary to undertake the work and study involved. By concentrating on work, being conscientious and eager to learn - by undertaking different tasks, for example, or volunteering for new roles - students will readily show themselves as having the potential for a rewarding, long term career in engineering.

Browse our latest engineering jobs