Irina left her chemistry degree course in Poland to come to the UK, where she completed a BEng in Mechanical Engineering at Northumbria University. She is now a trainee agricultural engineer.
I’m currently finishing my one-year placement at an agriculture equipment sales company. We sell used and new agricultural and horticultural machinery and provide maintenance support for farmers. My BEng has been relevant to my current role (especially the applied mechanics) as it gave me the essential technical knowledge and IT skills. During my studies I also worked within the agriculture and horticulture sectors, but in more sales-oriented roles and I got my job through a specialist recruitment agency - there are only a few jobs in the sector and most of them are never advertised.
I work as a member of the agricultural engineering team. The team is quite small and I learn a lot on the job, especially using technical equipment. My day-to-day work involves maintaining machinery, such as tractors and self-propelled machinery, harvest equipment, generators, sprayers, lawn mowers, pressure washers and trailers and I sometimes help with the maintenance and repair of multihead weighers and utility vehicles. My job changes from day to day as it involves lots of trouble shooting or testing new machinery.
The part of my role that I enjoy the most is the variety of tasks and the intellectual challenge. My role may sound very technical but a big part of it is intellectual and requires a clear brain and good attention to detail. It’s also very impressive to see how technology is developing in the new models. The part I enjoy least is when I have to work overtime or wake up very early, as well as being one of the few women in the depot.
I was always interested in agricultural engineering as my family are farmers in Poland. However, I would like to get more involved in the development and design side of it and perhaps get involved more in production rather than maintenance. My current role has inspired me towards doing an MSc in order to gain more specialised knowledge in development and design, so I’m thinking of returning to studying this autumn. Hopefully, my Masters will help me to develop the skills needed to get there - besides, it’s a good time to study given that the recession has hit the sector and lots of manufacturing plants have been cutting jobs in the UK within the last year.
If you’re interested in a role in this sector, you should be realistic about your expectations. Sometimes you have to work long hours in remote areas, do manual work and get your hands dirty. A placement will help you discover if this is what you really want - don’t be afraid to get experience in different areas while you’re studying. Another valuable way to get some work experience is to work on voluntary projects abroad - I have friends who’ve done this and really enjoyed it.
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