Aaron Jennings - DCU Engineering Access Programme

“Are you really an engineer?” This was a question that Aaron Jennings often faced before embarking on his journey to becoming a Chartered Engineer via DCU’s Engineering access programme and the Master’s in Engineering (MEng).


Aaron Jennings

With a BSc in Product Design, Aaron had plenty of work experience in engineering-focused companies. Even though his undergraduate gave him a basic knowledge of engineering subjects and tools, he felt his career was being limited because he lacked a formal engineering degree. “I knew that I probably had to re-educate myself,” says Aaron.

Making the leap from product design to engineering is not straightforward. However, DCU’s Engineering access programme offered a solution. The one-year course gives students without an engineering undergraduate a pathway to the Master’s. Aaron believes programmes like this are vital for people who want to change career direction. “I truly believe that there's a lot of people out there just like myself who may not have chosen the correct undergraduate for their professional pathway. Who really knows what they want to do at the age of 18?”

The access course is, by its nature, highly intensive. Aaron is full of praise for his lecturers who were consistently helpful. “They went well above and beyond,” he says. “If you had any questions, they were more than happy to answer them.” The Maths Centre at DCU Library, which helps learners with mathematics skills was also “a fantastic resource”. Ultimately, Aaron says the course helped him to achieve his academic goal. “It was a difficult journey but well worth it to get into the Master’s course,” he says.

While the Covid pandemic was hugely disruptive for Higher Education, there were upsides for students like Aaron, who are dyslexic. As the University went online, all the course lectures were recorded on Zoom. This greatly suited his learning style, as he was able to review the material at his own pace throughout his studies. Aaron says being dyslexic is a label that is sometimes applied to students who struggle with the inflexibility of the school system. However, he says it “simply means that you learn differently”.

“In order to overcome this Master’s and my fear of education, it meant I had to put more hours into my work than anyone else in my year,” says Aaron. He says the support of staff, DCU maths resources and access to lectures online, also helped him to succeed.

Having once considered himself “not academically inclined”, completing the MEng was a proud moment. “To achieve the first class honours in the Master’s became more than just obtaining the degree, but really a point to prove to myself and others who may have struggled in secondary school that we can do it, given the tools and support” he says.

Throughout his Master’s journey, Aaron also had a full-time job with Harp Renewables, a company that manufactures accelerated composts units or ‘Bio-Digesters’. He was able to combine both aspects in his dissertation. Having chosen to major in Sustainable Energy Systems, his project explored ways of improving the mechanical and thermal properties of the composting units produced at Harp with a view to improving their energy efficiency. “The result of the project was theoretical energy savings of between 40 to 50 per cent of the energy consumption of the unit.”

Only recently Aaron was head hunted by Certification Europe for a new job as an ISO auditor specialising in environmental and energy management systems. “Being approached for such a reputable and challenging job was a true recognition for my achievements within the Masters. It is such a privileged position to get an insight into the internal workings of multinational organisations and to see some of the world-leading management systems”

Aaron believes his latest career move is thanks to the expertise he gained from his DCU Master’s, and in particular his major in Sustainable Energy Systems. His advice to students considering the MEng is to take a good look at the details of the programme before applying. “Look at the modules themselves and pick your major very carefully. Because the Mechanical and Manufacturing [Master’s] will give you a good basis and core of engineering, but your Major will really be most likely the thing that will set you up on your career.”

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