UTC Oxfordshire student Tiffany is about to embark on an apprenticeship with her dream employer, Williams F1, but it’s taken a lot of hard work, a passion to succeed and some tough decisions to get her to this point.

Tiffany left school to study art and design at a local college but at the end of her first year a joint project with engineering students inspired her to switch courses. She left and moved to a different college to take up engineering. However, after just a term she found out about the UTC opening in Didcot and was faced with a difficult choice. Since igniting her passion for engineering, Tiffany’s focus had been on securing an apprenticeship with Williams F1 and she felt that joining the UTC would give her a greater chance of achieving that goal but she was reluctant to move again in such a short space of time. After talking through the options with her family and teachers she felt that the facilities and partnerships the UTC offered were too good an opportunity to miss, so she moved to the UTC a term into Year 12.

The UTC is different from an average school in many ways but one of the biggest and best differences is the backing it receives from local businesses and industry partners. I knew that if I joined the UTC I would have the support and the resources to get into the apprenticeship I wanted.

Life at a UTC

Being a term behind with her engineering was a challenge for Tiffany but it was nothing compared to starting an A level maths course after a year’s break from the subject and with only a GCSE grade C.

My first lesson of maths was a mess. I’ve always struggled with it and at this point I hadn’t studied it for a year so it was impossible. I couldn’t understand a thing and this was only the beginning of the course, it was going to get harder!

Determined not to let anything hold her back Tiffany took on extra lessons and devoted much of her free time to studying maths. With the support of her tutors and peers she made huge progress and after a couple of months she felt she was in a good place. Then along came another tricky decision. Williams F1 were offering a three month work placement for engineering students and although there was no guarantee of a permanent job afterwards, this would be a huge step in the right direction for Tiffany. However, if she was successful in applying for the placement she would need to drop her A level maths and change her Extended Diploma worth three A levels to a Diploma worth two A levels. After all the upheaval Tiffany had already been through and the hard work she had put in to catch up with her Extended Diploma and make progress in maths she was understandably hesitant.

My immediate answer was no. I had done so much to get to where I was; I’d worked so hard and was finally settled in at the UTC where I was improving every day. It seemed crazy to turn my back on all that work and move again but this was a huge chance for me to get my foot in the door with Williams F1 – I was pretty confused.

Ever proactive, Tiffany arranged a meeting with both her parents and teachers to work out what to do.

My teachers managed to persuade me to go for it. I knew they only wanted what was best for me and they spoke about it with such passion that it became obvious it would be stupid to turn it down. I applied and got the placement and had the best three months of my life.

Tiffany finished her placement, returned to the UTC and began applying for apprenticeships. Her dream was still to work for Williams F1 but it was BMW MINI who offered her a position first and yet again Tiffany was faced with a tough decision.

I was thrilled to get the apprenticeship offer from BMW MINI, they’re a huge and fantastic company and I’d applied before with no success so this was brilliant. But Williams F1 hadn’t started their elimination process yet and if I accepted the BMW offer I would be risking missing out on the chance to work for my dream employer.

Rather than making a snap decision, Tiffany arranged to visit both BMW MINI and Williams F1 to find out more about their apprenticeship offerings. After getting to know both companies better Tiffany had to make her choice, should she listen to her head which was telling her to be sensible and take up the BMW offer, or her heart which was telling her to hold out for an offer from Williams F1? She took the gamble and, unsurprisingly given her dedication and passion, soon received an offer from Williams F1.

Without the UTC I would never have been in this situation. Not only has it given me the support to improve academically; I’ve gone from referrals to passes to merits to finally achieving distinctions in my work, but it’s given me the skills and equipped me with the confidence to believe in myself and achieve my goals.

Looking to the future

Tiffany’s apprenticeship will take her up to HNC level and then she has the option of completing an HND and a degree, so she’ll certainly be busy for the next few years; after that she’s keeping an open mind.

Right now my career ambitions are still a mystery to me, all I know is that I love engineering. I plan to make the absolute most of my time at Williams F1 and take advantage of everything that’s offered to me. I am so proud of myself for getting here and I can’t wait to see where my apprenticeship takes me.

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