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Life as an Electrical Engineer

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Richard Houghton, who left Bolton School Boys’ Division in 2014, returned to address a lunchtime audience of boys and girls in Years 10-13. He recapped what life was like studying for an Electrical Engineering degree at Manchester and the importance of two placements that he undertook, which gave him valuable work experience. He recalled how one summer he worked on a rural electrical network in the Lake District close to Patterdale Hall, the School’s outdoor pursuits centre, and explained how this provided an early example of how the economics of a project are important – he said his line of work is all about delivering the best value solution. 

He also spoke about careers in the sector and his current role as an electrical engineer working for Vital Energi at Blackburn. He said he spends a lot of his time working with 3-D models, diagnosing problems and finding ways to solve them. He explained how there is a need to be flexible, often working with other departments – such as process engineering and mechanical engineering - to deliver a solution. 

In an illuminating Q&A session, he was asked whether, on a daily basis, he relies on the theory that he has learnt or his experience gained on the job. He told how it differs from day to day but that he certainly does have to go back to the underpinning theories on some occasions and this tends to set apart those with degrees and those without. 

He was also asked about the step up from A level to degree level, which Richard said he found manageable and that he had no doubt benefitted from his time at Bolton School in preparing for higher education. He said at university it was 12 hours a week whilst obviously at Bolton School it is more like 9-4 every day. He told how most electronics degrees share a certain percentage of commonality and he emphasised that such a degree is very mathematically oriented. His advice to the GCSE and A level students was to try out as much as possible whilst at university – both in terms of the course they follow and uni life in general.

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