Department of Engineering / News / Elliot’s journey from mechanical engineering apprentice to Chief Technician at the Whittle Laboratory

Department of Engineering

Elliot’s journey from mechanical engineering apprentice to Chief Technician at the Whittle Laboratory

Elliot’s journey from mechanical engineering apprentice to Chief Technician at the Whittle Laboratory

Elliot Reed is one of the Chief Technicians at the Department’s Whittle Laboratory – a world-leading research centre for turbomachinery aerodynamics. Elliot spends four days a week in the lab machining parts to order for academics and students, and one day a week at Cambridge Regional College on an apprenticeship programme, where he is studying for a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Engineering.

I enjoy the challenge of my role at the Whittle Lab. I machine a variety of parts, from small metal blocks designed to hold a sensor for taking measurements inside wind tunnels to manufacturing blades for jet engines. Every day is different.

Chief Technician Elliot Reed

Elliot’s journey began in 2013 when, as part of the College’s apprenticeship programme, he joined the Department of Engineering as an Advanced Apprentice in Mechanical Engineering and spent time on placement working in different labs across the University. 

In 2017, Elliot applied for and was successful in securing his current role of Chief Technician at the Whittle Laboratory. And in July 2020, Elliot is due to receive a HND in Engineering – a vocationally focused qualification which is the result of a two-year course, equivalent in academic level to a foundation degree, or the first two years of a Bachelor’s degree. One of Elliot’s career aims is to progress to the role of Principal Technician and train the next generation of apprentices. 

“I would recommend the apprenticeship route to others,” said Elliot. “It’s a really good way to learn a skill and you also get paid while you are learning. This combination of studying and working is very beneficial, as you are gaining both educational and practical experience at the same time. 

“I chose this route because I didn’t fancy going to university. I knew I wanted to do something practical and enjoyed maths. I enjoy the challenge of my role at the Whittle Lab. I machine a variety of parts, from small metal blocks designed to hold a sensor for taking measurements inside wind tunnels to manufacturing blades for jet engines. Every day is different and the Whittle Lab is a really friendly environment to work in.”

Credit: Cambridge Regional College

A top 10 finish

Elliot recently competed in the WorldSkills UK CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) Milling National Final held in Birmingham. The competition put Elliot in the role of a CNC machinist and challenged him to work to a set brief and use CNC machine tools to cut, drill, shape and finish products and components used in engineering and manufacturing. The competition tested Elliot’s skills in many areas including process planning, programming and time management. He had six hours to create two components; a 10cm by 10cm aluminium medal with a brass insert containing text. Elliot finished in the top 10. 

“It was really fun meeting other people from universities and companies who do a similar role to what I do,” he said. “It was also an opportunity to see how they worked and what techniques they used.” 

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