Abi Crawforth is a Mechanical Engineering Apprentice with Williams F1 in Grove and currently finishing her NVQ Level 3 Extended Diploma in Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering portfolio. Abi initially went through a two-year rotation programme in various areas amongst the business including composites, inspection, model shop and fabrication. Now in her third year, Abi has chosen to specialise in CNC machining.
Abi's main responsibility is the programming, setting and running of various CNC lathes within the department. These produce complex tight tolerance components which range from hydraulic systems parts to transmission and suspension components for F1 race cars. Abi works within a fast paced and high-pressured environment, working to tight deadlines and meeting ambitious targets. She works well under pressure and always brings a positive attitude and strong impact to her team.
Abi is a fantastic role model for young women in engineering and challenges stereotypes of women and young people within a male dominated environment. Her attitude and ability have won her the respect of managers and colleagues alike. She has overcome challenges with dyslexia to achieve amazing results throughout her Apprenticeship.
Why did you choose to do an Apprenticeship?
I liked the idea of paid employment with education and knew that an Apprenticeship would suit my learning style.
How did you find out about your Apprenticeship?
I did lots of research into the different Apprenticeships available and employers that offer them. I didn't have any experience of engineering, so I arranged 7 different work experience placements with different employers to get some experience and try out different roles and find out which places I wanted to work at.
I applied for a few Apprenticeships at the places I likes and was delighted when I was one of 4 people to be selected from 750 applicants to be an Apprentice at Williams.
What have you gained from your Apprenticeship?
In my first year I learnt so many incredible skills whilst rotating round departments; from assembling the hydraulic clutch actuator, to laminating the carbon fibre driver’s seat. I loved getting to know everyone and see the passion they have in sharing their knowledge with me.
In the second year my hard work at college paid off; with a straight run of distinctions in my Level 3 BTEC in Mechanical Engineering, being chosen as an NVQ portfolio sample and winning Apprentice of the Year in a Large Business at Newbury College.
Since then, I managed to get my first choice in our final department at Williams, in the Machine Shop. With some of the best mentors teaching me how to set-up, program and run, parts for the Formula 1 cars. This showed me just how important it was to have skilled workers all striving for one goal as a team.
My experience in this Apprenticeship so far has taught me so much more than the job itself. I like to call it a Life Apprenticeship. Your colleagues, management, HR and fellow Apprentices all make up your daily interactions and they can all teach you so much with the right communication. My Apprenticeship at Williams Formula 1 has moulded me into the keen, happy and motivated machinist I am today.
What do you plan to do next?
For the future my aim is to achieve high grades in my NVQ, HNC, HND and degree, to be able to show myself and others that even with dyslexia, anything academic can be possible with hard work and determination. At work, my aim is to become the most skilled machinist I can be with experience and knowledge on different types of machines and in programming, so that one day I can teach the next generation of Apprentices to thrive in their work too.
How will your Apprenticeship help you achieve this?
My enthusiasm, passion and drive for engineering lets me make the most out of every day in my dream job. I am gaining all the skills needed for the “Williams Way” which will enable me to progress within the business.
What advice would you give a young person who might be thinking about an Apprenticeship?
I would recommend any young person who knows what field of work they want to go into, to do it via an Apprenticeship. An Apprenticeship is an amazing way to have hands on work experience, and be taught by skilled and qualified current workers. As it’s a working business, there is always a drive to achieve the same goal by the work community. While being a valued member of the work force, there are also educational benefits, of taking courses Level 3 to Level 5 of that subject, meaning that not only are you showing your skills visually in your work but also qualified on paper.
What’s your top tip?
There's no such thing as bad work experience! If it goes well, you can put a tick in a box against that as something you might like to do, if you didn't enjoy it you can cross it off. All experiences, good and bad, are good for your CV.
How do you feel about becoming an Apprenticeship Ambassador?
I’d love to share the word about what a great opportunity Apprenticeships are.