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Foundation Degree in Naval Architecture

William, a structural engineering designer at Babcock International, recently took a trip to meet Her Majesty, The Queen to talk about his maritime pursuits.

And, how he skipped the classroom to get into a hands-on career …

Choosing to bypass the traditional academic route after school, William embarked on an Apprenticeship in Engineering Management with the Ministry of Defence, giving him three invaluable years of hands-on experience in the marine industry, primarily at Devonport Dockyard. After laying a robust foundation for his career through his Apprenticeship, he landed a significant role at Babcock, where he specialises in structural engineering design for submarines, focusing on 3D modelling and technical drawings of their constructive and structural elements.

Despite initially believing his academic pursuits were behind him, William’s career ambitions and recognition of the opportunities that further education could offer led him to enrol on a Foundation Degree in Naval Architecture at City College Plymouth. The part-time degree has allowed him to balance his studies with his professional responsibilities at Babcock, attending classes one day a week. His coursework covers crucial areas such as boat stability, construction, and even the hands-on project of designing and building autonomous boats, all of which were directly relevant to his role and aspirations in naval architecture.

“I wanted to do the degree, which is funny because once I finished my Apprenticeship I thought ‘that’s it – I’m done with education, I just want to work!’ But after a year of work, I missed it. I saw the opportunities that higher education could bring and now I’ve got the option to go on and do a bachelor’s and even a master’s degree.”

And, it’s the hands-on project of designing and building autonomous boats which transported him to Buckingham Palace! William was invited to join College staff at Buckingham Palace when the Principal was presented with the Queen’s Anniversary Prize. The highlight of his journey was undoubtedly the conversation with Her Majesty during the awards ceremony. Her Majesty’s interest in the nuances of autonomous vessel construction reflected the significance of the project, bridging the gap between royal recognition and technological innovation.

“The whole experience was absolutely incredible. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and to be asked to attend was a great honour.”

“Speaking to the Queen was really interesting – she showed interest in our area of study – how much she understood of it, I’m not sure! But, she showed great enthusiasm and I explained the basics of what naval architecture is and what we do at the College.”

For students looking to follow in William’s footsteps, his advice is “don’t be scared to put yourself forward for things.” Living by the mantra of ‘if there’s something you’re interested in, and want to pursue it, just go right ahead and do it’ has opened so many doors for William!