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Profile6th September 2022

Supporting Ark students with apprenticeship mentoring 

As the apprenticeship landscape continues to evolve, more than 50% of students say they are interested in this pathway. Ark Schools is working with employer partners to support students to secure competitive roles in their chosen sector. 

Michail Savas, who has recently completed his A levels at Ark Acton, having gained an A in Maths and Cs in Physics and Further Maths, successfully applied to a degree apprenticeship with GKN Aerospace. As part of Ark’s apprenticeship support, he was matched with a mentor to help strengthen his application. Three hundred people applied for the apprenticeship, which was narrowed down to six people across the country! Henry Duke, a Software Engineer at Boeing, supported Michail as he applied for and secured his role. We spoke to them about their experience. This blog is part of our #ArkPeople series.

Henry Duke

Michail, tell us about your interest in aerospace engineering and apprenticeships  

When I was in Year 7 or 8, I knew I wanted to go into engineering because I’ve always loved the mechanical aspect. I’ve always been a massive car fanatic, which I got from my Dad. My brother and I are big fans of trains and planes. I like building something and watching it fly afterwards. I’m always fascinated at the airport, watching these massive metal machines fly through the air. I knew I wanted to be behind that and make it fly.

My school explained the different post-18 choices and held events where we could learn more about apprenticeships from businesses. I was looking for a degree apprenticeship because I want a university degree and education. With the degree apprenticeship, I get a degree once I finish and have actual work experience, making me more attractive to future employers.

I know there is some stigma around apprenticeships. Some people still think apprenticeships are for people who aren’t as capable, and university is what everyone should aim for. I know many people who aren’t going to university; one of the most intelligent people I know in my sixth form has an excellent apprenticeship with a well-known insurance company. 

Ark Acton supported students that wanted to apply for apprenticeships with various opportunities. Teachers like Miss McSorley helped me throughout the process and were always there to support me.

Henry, tell us about yourself and your career background  

I’ve been interested in computers since I was about six years old. I did my GCSEs in 1998 and started college in 1999, where I did a BTEC in computing. I didn’t want to go to university immediately, so I got a job at a small local company supporting their website, which was a pretty new field back then. After a few years, I went to Aberystwyth University to study computer graphics, vision and games, focusing on the games industry’s software side rather than the art side. I also had the opportunity to do an intern placement year with Sony games. I got my role at Boeing after a chance meeting with someone on the train who told me about their opportunities. After exchanging details, I applied for a job.

Henry, why did you want to mentor students interested in apprenticeships?  

I’ve always had a love of helping young people to improve and make the most of themselves.

I think interview skills are something that many young people don’t get to experience, so when the opportunity to support a student at Ark came up, I jumped at the chance. My own chance encounter, which led to my job at Boeing, also helped me realise how important networking can be when job hunting.

Michail, tell us about the application process for GKN Aerospace and how Henry was able to support you  

I went through a lengthy process with applications and tests to check my suitability for the apprenticeship. I also had to do an engineering aptitude test, where I went to the GKN Aerospace headquarters in Bristol to do an interview and a presentation. I was panicking about this, but Henry gave me suggestions on how to prepare. I was very fortunate because he knew the industry and explained what the interviewers were looking for and the types of questions I might be asked which were specific to engineering. We talked about how I should answer them to highlight my approach to problem-solving.

Henry also gave me general interview advice about my body language and how to dress appropriately, whether online or in person. He also helped me realise that the interviewers are just regular people, and I shouldn’t be scared of them; they woke up, had breakfast, and drove to work like everyone else.

Having someone like Henry was terrific as he had so much knowledge to share; without him, I don’t think I would’ve been able to get the apprenticeship.  

Henry, what made Michail stand out and succeed?  

It was clear Michail had the drive, so my role was to help him do well in the recruitment process. We had just six days to prepare him. Mikhail came across as competent and knowledgeable about the sector; if I’d been interviewing him at Boeing, I’d have been impressed by his skills and ability. He was confident, spoke well, and got his points across well. I’m so pleased he was successful.

Michail, what are you looking forward to when you start your apprenticeship?  

I can’t wait to meet the other apprentices I will be with and eventually go into the field. I’ll be studying full-time in my first year and working at the site in the second year. I’ll be gaining so much practical and theoretical experience.

When I finish the apprenticeship, I hope to get a good job with the company or somewhere connected with aerospace engineering and make some money! I want to start my own company in the future.

Michail, what would you say to someone who is considering an apprenticeship?  

I would say think about your options. A degree apprenticeship might be the perfect mix between gaining a university degree and not having as much debt when you graduate.  

Apprenticeships are competitive and students shouldn’t be turned off by the amount of work they have to do during the application process because it’s 100% worth it!

Henry, any final thoughts?  

Be confident, make connections, talk to people, and be open to opportunities. Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith. Our sector is an inclusive group; if someone’s suitable for the role, they will get the job. However, the focus should be on giving people the confidence to apply and helping them make connections. In engineering, and particularly in the software industry, there’s a shortage of female applicants, so I’d love to see that change. Everyone should have the opportunity to go for whatever role they want and strive to be whatever they want.  

Help Ark students secure competitive apprenticeships

If you are an employer or volunteer who would like to support Ark students in securing apprenticeships, please get in touch with If you are a student or alumni pursuing apprenticeships, ask your Careers Leader or teachers for support or contact the Alumni Team via our LinkedIn page.