Luton based engineer helps a new generation

Scholarship winner becomes a mentor

By Lynn Hughes
Monday, 28th March 2022, 11:43 am
Updated Monday, 28th March 2022, 3:22 pm
Alex (third from left) as a work experience student
Alex (third from left) as a work experience student

A former scholarship engineer at a Luton-based firm is using his skills to help another student on the scheme.

Alex Proudman, Graduate Systems Engineer at aerospace engineering company Leonardo in Luton, has just become the mentor for a local school student on the same Arkwright scholarship scheme that first introduced him to the company.

The Arkwright Engineering Scholarship is one of the UK’s most esteemed STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) scholarships and aims to inspire students’ sense of their own potential as a future leader in engineering.

When Alex was still at secondary school in St Albans, he secured a place on the prestigious Arkwright scholarship scheme, receiving mentoring and work experience opportunities at Leonardo based at Capability Green in Luton, which gave him his first experience of a live engineering environment.

He went on to study at Oxford University, during which time he continued to return to Leonardo as a summer placement student, after being stimulated by the technology for the UK’s future generation of aircraft, including Tempest.

After completing his degree, Alex returned to the company as a Graduate Systems Engineer on their graduate scheme.

Alex said: “Because I’d had experience of working within a business before starting University, I quickly learned the language of engineering, which I found was so much more than the technical details you might expect. I noticed how important it was to collaborate, to communicate your ideas clearly so that members of your team can offer their input and help you improve your approach. I think as a mentor on the Arkwright scheme it is important to help people level up not just their academic abilities, but their expressive abilities too, as engineering isn’t a solitary profession, it always sits within a wider business context.”

Some of that training will also mean learning to adopt a collaborative approach, building on shared ideas that support the re-use of concepts, so individuals learn that they can go further and faster than they would starting from scratch on their own.

Alex said: “While you are at school you are taught to create your own work independently, but in engineering the opposite is actively encouraged. Designs need to be used and then reused. Building on your colleagues’ existing advances in engineering is more efficient and avoids unnecessary rework, while obviously acknowledging their contribution. Engineering is about exploring fresh avenues you can take existing technology down to break new ground.

“Engineering involves collaborating with a wider range of different people than most students will be used to at school. You must speak in an engaging way about your idea to colleagues and sell your concept to people from other departments. Speaking in a clear dynamic way is essential to getting buy-in to your ideas in business, so I think we need to help the next generation gain experience of this so they’re prepared for the future.”

Alex’s mentee will shortly get the chance to do this when they begin work experience at the site based at Capability Green, learning about the varied types of engineering and becoming used to the industrial environment.