My experience as an Apprentice Design Engineer

Article: My experience as an Apprentice Design Engineer

Owen Finnegan: "A Design Engineer working for ESG has several responsibilities ..."

I joined ESG Rail, the expert rolling stock consultancy, in October of 2013 as an Apprentice Design Engineer. I decided to pursue a career within engineering and particularly the railway industry after several discussions with my father, who has worked in the railway engineering sector almost the entirety of his working life and was a British Rail apprentice himself.


From a young age I was always interested in the design and construction of everything I saw, and the continued growth of the industry gave me confidence that it was a secure one to be a part of. I became part of the ESG design office team to learn and continuously develop my knowledge and skills over a 3 year period. I am now over 2 years into the job and able to reflect upon the benefits that this development program is having on my chosen career path.


A Design Engineer working for ESG has several responsibilities. The flow of work mostly arises in the form of work packages that are issued to an individual through the CRM software. The package details the specific requirements of the outlined work, the amount of allocated hours assigned to the effort, as well as general information relating to the project.


Throughout the duration of a task, these work packages are updated daily to give other interested departments information relating to the state and progress of the package. The outlined tasks assigned to the design department are largely varied. ‘Detail Design’ packages of work will require a Designer to both model the design in 3D, as well as detail the components, assembly and installations as 2D manufacture drawings. This is all done within the SolidEdge software package.


A huge variety of project work passes through the Design department and it is common to be allocated completely different design work after each work package is complete. When I joined the company and was in the process of understanding the software fundamentals, I completed several practice tasks before beginning to contribute to live projects. The first example of this was designing an enclosure and installation for an Ozone Generator fitted to the UAT module of Class 220/221 Voyager units. This allowed me to appreciate some common difficulties of fitting new equipment to existing vehicles, such as limited installation space. I then progressed onto installation of several pieces of equipment such as CCTV systems, Passenger Information Systems as well as producing vehicle arrangement and seating layouts.



Operating 3D CAD software is as much about being able to understand the commands used to create the components and assemblies, as it is about correctly structuring the models, so that any department member can open the work and make adjustments. There are also several design processes in place to ensure that jobs can be picked up easily by anyone in the team. All files created have item numbers, material specifications and descriptions. This prevents delays, for example if a Designer created models for a ‘concept’ work package and then a different Designer is assigned to create the detailed drawings, the process in place will allow the work to continue without any interruption.

When required, a Designer will also accompany Engineers on site surveys. This can involve taking photos and recording measurements to aid office design work, observing an installation, so that any alterations required to improve the process can be noted.


One of the most enjoyable aspects of working as an Apprentice at ESG is the variety of work I am able to contribute to. Through this I am able to effectively expand my knowledge of design principle as well as railway vehicles. As part of my training I am also able to work off site at heritage sites and depots to enable me to appreciate the physical effort required to make the designs that I work on a reality.


The biggest challenge I have faced is attempting to absorb all the information I attain from the various learning methods I am exposed to. To aid me in doing this and to also keep record of work I have carried out, I continuously update a portfolio containing accounts of all project work I am involved in.


My apprenticeship program requires me to attend college on a day release basis, to complete qualifications that support my work based training. This is particularly useful as it enables me to implement principles learnt at work within my college study and vice versa. The support of my colleagues has been imperative in my development. With this, I am able to continue developing my knowledge and understanding of Design Engineering day to day, as well as now being able to contribute to billable work.


I am extremely pleased I made the decision to join the ESG apprenticeship scheme. It has proven to be a brilliant introduction to the railway industry and has provided me with many different development opportunities. It is exciting to be in a dynamic company as it continues to grow, at the same time as I progress through my program. I look forward to completing the process and continuing to develop my career with the support of the company.


Interested in starting a career with ESG?

We are always interested in hearing from candidates who are looking for a new, fresh and exciting challenge. Send your CV to and we will be in touch should your application be of interest.


Reasons to choose ESG

  • Competitive salary
  • Membership of Railway Pension Scheme
  • Participation in DB Schenker Family Rewards Scheme
  • Flexible working arrangements
  • Discretionary bonus
  • Modern working environment
  • Opportunity to work alongside like-minded professionals