Day In A Life: On the ocean wave

Lt Richard Wickett, 27, an engineer with the Royal Navy, describes his challenging job
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The Independent Online

YESTERDAY

I wanted a career that would provide an opportunity to travel, where I would not spend every day stuck behind a desk. I was always stronger in maths and science subjects at school which naturally suited a career in engineering. I studied maths, physics and chemistry at A-level. and went on to study a BEng in mechanical engineering at Loughborough University. I was offered sponsorship through the Royal Navy's technical bursary scheme. The bursaries are available for those who wish to join the Royal Navy as engineer officers; the Royal Navy offer a number of sponsorship schemes, but there are more available for potential engineer officers than other Royal Navy branches.

The technical bursary scheme runs in parallel with the Defense Technical Undergraduate Scheme (DTUS), where students are sponsored to read accredited engineering degrees at the Universities of Southampton, Newcastle upon Tyne, Aston, Loughborough and Northumbria. Financial support of £5,500 per year is available for members of the scheme.

Selection for sponsorship, including the DTUS, is dependant on passing the Admiralty Interview Board (AIB) and achieving the required grades at A-level or equivalent. The AIB takes place over two days. During selection, candidates are assessed in a wide range of skills, such as communication, leadership and effective intelligence.

As part of all sponsorship schemes, undergraduates are expected to get to know the Royal Navy during university breaks. This can take the form of visits and training courses in order to understand and prepare for life in the Royal Navy.

Having completed my degree and taken part in the acquaint visits and training courses, I completed 26 weeks of Initial Officer Training at Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC), Dartmouth, Devon. Here I learnt the basics of being a naval officer: seamanship, boat handling and navigation, as well as spending six weeks on an operational warship.

All prospective Royal Navy officers have to attend the two-day AIB, although as I had already passed the interview in order to gain university sponsorship I did not need to go through this process again. However, prospective engineer officers not sponsored through university by the Royal Navy, who hold an accredited engineering degree, are eligible for a golden hello of up to £12,000 on passing the AIB.

TODAY

As an engineer in the Royal Navy, I have a challenging job and am directly responsible for ensuring our marine services and propulsion plant are available to the Captain through a switch or lever. I manage the day-to-day aspects of the marine engineering department; a team of 40 technicians all with diverse backgrounds and experience. We work closely with our colleagues in the warfare, logistics and weapon engineering departments to ensure that all aspects of the ship's capability are at the highest levels of availability at all times.

The Royal Navy offers so much more than just a job; it provides a different way of life. I have seen some amazing places including Dubai, Cairo, Rio de Janeiro, West Africa and the Antarctic, and clocked up over 30,000 miles in my first three years! I have also taken advantage of the sporting and adventure training activities available, from mountain biking and hiking in Snowdonia to participating in the Royal Navy Ski Championships in Europe.

TOMORROW

You should take time to find out what courses are available and think about the employment opportunities they may lead to. With ever-increasing tuition fees it is important to obtain qualifications that are sought after by employers.

Whilst I am an engineer by trade, the opportunities for employment are immense. As HMS Lancaster's boarding officer I was responsible for commanding a team that could board and search vessels that might be smuggling weapons or drugs. In future appointments I could work with a United Nations peace-keeping force on a rebuilding programme or I may study for an MSc at University College London on full naval pay.

I am now fully qualified to take on the role of senior marine engineer of any Royal Navy frigate or destroyer. My experience also gives me the opportunity to apply for full membership of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Though I may serve a full career in the Royal Navy, should I decide to pursue a civilian career the skills that I have developed are highly sought after by many employers.

For more information call 08456 07 55 55 (quoting EE01236) or visit www.royalnavy.mod.uk/careers

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