17 May, 2018 / BY Neil Sharp

How to secure a place on an electronics manufacturing graduate scheme

The world of Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) is a fast-moving and technologically innovative sector that can offer a wide range of compelling career opportunities for new graduates.

It’s a chance to be part of what makes the world work. And to have a hand in creating highly complex and innovative products that serve a wide range of industries, from industrial automation to process control, test and measurement and laboratory technology.

For those seeking a route into the electronics manufacturing industry, a Graduate Scheme can be hugely beneficial in gaining practical, first-hand experience of an EMS business across all its operations.

There’s no doubt though. Securing a place on any manufacturing graduate programme can be hugely competitive.

So what are the personal and professional attributes that can aid your chances of success? And just how important is your degree choice in the overall mix?

In this blog post, four of JJS’s Commercial Graduate scheme participants share their own experiences of entering the world of electronics manufacturing.

And they offer their insights into what they think helped them to stand out from the crowd.

Michael Towers - Account Manager

Michael joined JJS as a commercial graduate in October 2015, having completed a degree in History from the University of Leicester.

Michael has since completed the scheme and is now an Account Manager, acting as the single point of contact for his customer base. Typically his role includes preparing quotations, loading orders, overseeing the progress on production builds, coordinating any design changes or quality issues, discussing new business opportunities with his customers and delivering on service levels.

As Michael explains, the role is "all about providing great customer service in order to nurture and grow each account.

The commercial graduate scheme offers the chance to work behind the scenes from the very start, so you’re getting hands-on experience virtually from the word go.

I really enjoyed being able to get stuck in straight away and moving around the different departments offered me lots of variety.

While there’s a steep learning curve in terms of picking up new knowledge, there’s always someone available to support you as you learn new things."

He also believes having a record of previous work experience , in whatever capacity, can be extremely beneficial.

"If you’re considering applying for any manufacturing graduate scheme my advice is to get some kind of previous work experience beforehand. It doesn’t really matter what type of work experience it is, before I applied to JJS I worked in a local supermarket, but it does help demonstrate your work ethic which any potential employer is going to look for.”

Felicity Warner - Account Manager

Felicity joined JJS via the commercial graduate scheme in October 2015. She has a degree in Physical Geography and took a year out to travel before applying to JJS.

Felicity successfully completed the training scheme back in August 2017 and now works as an Account Manager. Since completing the programme she has been involved in a number of significant contracts which have demanded a combination of sales and project management skills from her, with a focus on customer interaction and support.

As she explains, the complex world of engineering and manufacturing had never really been a career option she had considered before.

“JJS was a completely new environment for me. I had no experience of working in electronics and hadn’t worked in a factory before.

What I really liked about JJS’s graduate scheme is that it encourages its employees to learn all areas of the business.

There’s definitely been loads to learn, especially from the technical side of things - from understanding engineering through to printed circuit board assembly and test but everyone helps you.

I really appreciated the mentoring that was offered to me during my early days at JJS. And, now that I’ve completed the training, I’ve also enjoyed mentoring other graduates. In the future I’d love to be an ambassador for the scheme and I hope to be able to inspire more female graduates to consider a career in manufacturing."

Her advice for anyone considering taking part in this type of scheme?

"Take as many notes as possible during the training stage, be clear and concise in your communication and take the opportunity to learn from everyone you meet along the way.”

Thomas Williams - Commercial Graduate

Thomas joined JJS via the commercial graduate scheme in October 2016. He has a degree in History and is currently working through the remainder of his training alongside one of JJS’s experienced Senior Account Managers.

So, what was Thomas looking for from a graduate scheme?

“I wanted to secure a job that offered me the opportunity to gain some commercial training and to join a business that would invest in me for the future. This is exactly what JJS has offered.

They recognise that graduates fresh from University will not have a comprehensive business knowledge, or any technical knowledge of electronics manufacturing, and they offer any individual the opportunity for a ground up tailored training programme."

And his concerns before he joined the scheme?

"I was originally concerned that I knew very little about business, and even more so manufacturing, however, throughout the two-year graduate programme, I have been given the chance to learn on the job through various rotations around the different departments within the company.

This gives anyone on the graduate scheme an experience of what life is like in each department, and allowing graduates to steadily build up their technical and business acumen, ready for life as an Account Manager.

JJS take an interest in all their graduates’ development, and there is a mentor programme to ensure that each individual is happy with how the programme is progressing, as well as the opportunity to conduct further postgraduate study."

Matt Strommen - Commercial Graduate

Matt initially joined JJS as an SMT operator for four months before successfully applying for the commercial graduate position.

He has a degree in film production and also enjoys graphic design and art.

So what was his motivation for joining JJS?

As he explains: “I love being a part of the things that make the world work.

In my SMT role there was a real focus on meticulousness. I was responsible for checking materials, manual inspection, dealing with mechanical problems and keeping the machines running.

Being offered a place on the commercial graduate scheme was a huge highlight for me. I really enjoyed the robustness of the interview process which included numeracy and literacy tests as well as the chance to present in front of the management team.

I’m currently in the purchasing stage of my training and learning more about how JJS manages the relationship with key suppliers, making sure the level of service meets our expectation and ensuring that materials are delivered on time."

So what attributes does he consider helpful for anyone considering applying for a graduate role?

"Creative thinking, organisation, communication and listening skills are really important. It’s about being confident enough to ask questions and sensible enough to listen to the answers.”

Test and Measurement: Outsourcing with precision and accuracy

Written by Neil Sharp

Neil has over 25 years’ experience in Electronics Manufacturing Services and Component Distribution. During his career, Neil has held a range of leadership positions in sales, marketing, and customer service. Neil is currently part of the ESCATEC Senior Management Team and is responsible for setting and delivering the overall Group Marketing strategy. Neil heads up the marketing department and is responsible for both the strategy and the implementation of innovative marketing campaigns designed to deliver high quality content to those seeking outsourcing solutions.