Knowing what they wanted to do with their lives when they were just 16 years old has paid off handsomely for two engineering graduates.
Matthew Haines and Daniel Coates, both 22, from the University of Portsmouth, have been offered full-time graduate jobs with a multinational company working at the forefront of computer technology who they first approached for work experience before they even started university.
The two men applied for scholarships from Havant-based firm Xyratex when they were still at school. The scholarship is a joint initiative with Xyratex and the University’s School of Engineering. Xyratex paid the school leavers £750 a year each to help them through university and, crucially, also gave them paid work experience every summer.
The students spent the four summers throughout their degree courses learning about the company and its various departments and both won the confidence of their managers.
They graduated this week with Masters in Engineering, in which they both earned distinctions.
Matthew, from Hayling Island, is now an electronic design engineer with Xyratex. He said: "I think my enthusiasm and the fact my college results were good – I had a triple distinction in my National Diploma in Engineering – helped me win the scholarship all those years ago.
"I was really interested in the company and I researched them and knew a lot about them so I could show I would be a good asset to them.
"At that stage I hadn’t given my future career much thought but I knew I wanted to work in the field of electronics. The constant challenges it presents you with keep you on your toes.
"I’ve had good feedback from all the managers I’ve worked for over the four summers and I’m now employed in one of the departments that I worked in over the summer break in 2009.”
Xyratex specialises in devices which store data on computers and ships over 13 per cent of worldwide external storage capacity. Its equipment is used in the production or testing of over 50 per cent of the world's 3.5 inch drives, a crucial component in the majority of personal computers.
The year Matthew and Daniel won their scholarship was the first time the scholarship had been offered. In the four years since Xyratex has sponsored two Portsmouth engineering students every year, giving them an unrivalled degree of experience and understanding of the business well before they graduate.
Director Skills and Technical Vitality at Xyratex, Dave Milward, said: "This scholarship scheme allows us to get to know the candidates very well over three or four years – it is like an extended interview in which they also gain a deep understanding of the company, our culture and how we work – which considerably reduces the risk of employing the wrong person.
"By offering scholarships to undergraduates we benefit from a stream of new ideas and original thinking. Even if some of their ideas won’t work, one in ten of them can be a real gem and help keep us ahead of our competitors.”
Daniel believes he was selected for the scholarship scheme four years ago because he showed a real willingness to learn and had taken time to fully research Xyratex as a the business.
He said: "When I began the course my plan was to work up the engineering ladder with a view to becoming a design engineer. Since working with Xyratex I have been given the opportunity to go on managerial courses and interview future students, so I am developing a breadth of experience.
"I enjoy how quickly the industry moves and how I am constantly learning to try and keep up.
"My major priority when I was studying was to get a job and I would have moved anywhere for work, so I am lucky to find a job in Portsmouth.”
Xyratex works with the University through the Faculty of Technology’s advisory board and has strong links with Portsmouth researchers.
Misha Filip, head of the University’s School of Engineering said: "The scholarship is an excellent opportunity for students to gain experience in a multinational company and demonstrates the interest of local companies in recruiting good graduates.
"There has never been a better time for graduate engineers; employers are calling out for skilled engineers. Sponsoring one from the start of their degree brings multiple benefits. More employers should be doing what Xyratex do.”
The University of Portsmouth runs courses in Computer Engineering, Electronic Engineering and Communication Systems which are accredited by the Institution of Engineering and Technology <http://www.theiet.org/> (IET).
For more information visit: http://www.port.ac.uk/departments/academic/eng/