Engineering Insights from Old Boy
Wednesday, 12 March 2014
Students from the Boys’ and Girls’ Divisions with an interest in Engineering were given a window into this specialist field by Old Boy Phillip Taylor. Phillip left Bolton School in 1968 and went on to the University of Aston to do a four-year sandwich course in metallurgy. After qualifying in 1972, he joined British Steel and convinced the company to put him on a graduate scheme – although this wasn’t something they were offering at the time!
He eventually became a process metallurgist through the training scheme, and quickly realised that in order to get anywhere within his chosen field, he would need to become a member of several professional organisations. One of the organisations he wanted to join required all members to have a qualification in Business Management.
Phillip told the group, “Just as I’d had the brass neck to ask them to ask the company to create a graduate scheme for me, I had the brass neck to ask them to put me on a two-year Business Management course as well!”
He explained that although good academic qualifications are a ticket into a career, technical and professional qualifications endorse a person within business, and show dedication to the field. This is an important piece of advice for the pupils to remember in the future.
Phillip spoke about the various successes of his career, including his work pioneering end-user business within British Steel. This began with him spearheading a project making a particular part of a train engine: originally, British Steel was asked to simply supply the steel; Phillip not only offered to supply the end product, but with a little research also managed to create a part which would increase the engine’s power by 10%!
However, he admitted that there have been just as many failures in his career as successes. He was also eager to point out that no one was castigated for these mistakes or projects which did not turn out to be economically viable. He stressed to the pupils that the atmosphere within Engineering is now very inclusive, with everyone invited to contribute and share knowledge. Although people are held responsible for figuring out what went wrong and why, there is no longer a ‘blame culture’ within the industry.
He ended his talk by giving the pupils some more advice for the future. He said that although academics are important, other skills – such as the ability to communicate, or to both follow instructions and give them clearly – are perhaps even more vital when applying for work. This is where vocational training, work experience, and a good reference can make the difference between an unsuccessful application and an offer of a job.
Overall, Phillip’s talk about his working life and his experiences was full of guidance, and a very useful way for the pupils to see what life is really like for someone working in Engineering.