On the defensive

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The Independent Online

Helen Jones, 23, is a mechanical engineer for the Ministry of Defence, Defence Engineering and Science Group.

When I was youger...

At school, I was always attracted to the more technical subjects and then my interest was really sparked by an engineering taster course that I did in the sixth form. From that point on I knew that I would find engineering a satisfying subject to pursue. On leaving university, I came across the MoD Defence Engineering and Science Group (DESG) and, because I was keen to join a reputable graduate scheme accredited by all of the major institutes, I investigated further. I saw that the MoD also provides amazing opportunities to do a series of varied placements in a range of locations, both within the MOD and in wider industry.They also heavily invest in the training and development of graduates both financially and in terms of individual mentorship. Graduates create their own training plan to DESG guidelines, which tie in really well with the accrediting routes to chartership. I grabbed the opportunity and haven’t looked back since.

My current work...

The MoD is known as “engineering heaven” and the work is fascinating whatever field you choose. I am now a part of the community of thousands of engineers and scientists working within the wider MoD civil service to equip and support the defence of the U.K. Currently, I am working as a graduate engineer in a project team based at Abbey Wood, in Bristol (although graduates can be at many locations throughout the UK). I am working mainly on an urgent operational requirement which arrived shortly after I did in this placement and I know that the work that I am doing is important, responsible, valuable and unique. By the time I move on to my next placement, it is expected that at least part of the equipment I am currently working on will be in theatre. Working on this project has enabled me to see many aspects of the defence acquisition process and has opened my eyes to fascinating areas that I never knew existed. As a DESG graduate you’re also offered many opportunities that you won’t find elsewhere. In the past few months, I have visited the Defence Vehicle Display where I went off-roading in a Piranha armoured vehicle and I’ve had a “tour” of the speed bowl in a Vauxhall Monaro at 150mph! I have also been out with the Royal Marines in an offshore raiding craft; have travelled to Norway and Denmark and lunched with the Captain of Fort Victoria! Being the first person to chair a meeting in the briefing room of Burlington Nuclear Bunker was also a highlight.

Future plans...

In September, I will start an eight month course on HMS Sultan where I will gain a more practical and in-depth experience of marine engineering with respect to the military. Ultimately, I’d like to become a chartered engineer with the MoD ; this can be achieved within four years. Although it’s relatively early in my career, I have no intention of leaving the MOD as it is already providing me with a diverse range of experiences helping me on my way to chartership and a choice of interesting career paths. I would say if you have ambition and initiative, go for it. The most important thing to remember is that the MoD DESG graduate scheme is what you make it. Take the opportunities offered and if you think there’s something you want to do, but it isn’t currently offered, just ask! There’s so much on offer, and we are given a personal training budget to spend (within reason), so make the most of it. Talking to the people around you is often the best way to find out about what is available to you.