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Poppy Burrough: The Engineer

Poppy Burrough is an apprentice technician engineer for JCB and is forging a promising future for herself in agriculture.

Poppy Burrough
Poppy Burrough

Why engineering?


I joined the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs when I was 14. It really opened my eyes to what the agricultural industry had to offer and influenced my decision to study agriculture at college after my AS levels. I knew I definitely wanted to work with machinery


My working week


My day-to-day work varies massively, I can be out in the field with the sales engineers demonstrating pieces of kit to potential customers, or being on the line doing quality inspections and measuring parts, or being in the workshop stripping or rebuilding machines.


What has surprised me as an apprentice


It really has opened my eyes to how much goes on behind the scenes of such a massive company. It never really occurred to me quite how varied the role of a person within agricultural engineering could be and it’s a huge mix of people.


This variety also runs over into my college studies at the JCB Academy.


My proudest achievement


I’ve recently gained a Technician Membership with the Institution of Agricultural Engineers which allows me to use the post nominals TIAgrE.


Being involved with this also allows access to a variety of branch meetings and talks covering subjects such as autonomous vehicles and precision farming, as well as access to a wide range of resources, seminars and conferences.


This also sets me on a pathway to eventually receive professional registration with the Engineering Council as an Engineering Technician - with the post nominals EngTech MIAgrE.

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"Agricultural engineering is so important to the younger generation"
"Agricultural engineering is so important to the younger generation"

The biggest untruth about agriculture?


It’s really important to promote there’s more to agriculture than working on a farm and milking cows. The careers in the industry are endless.


How do you find the right job?


Finding a job isn’t an easy path, and sometimes you have to move out your comfort zone and try different things.


I also think it’s key to be brave enough sometimes to admit that somethings not right for you, even if it feels like it’s setting you back a few steps – i.e. changing college/sixth form.


What’s your biggest strength?


I like to think that I am quite motivated. My path into this apprenticeship was quite long, with a couple of companies just ignoring my applications, and one suggesting that a workshop isn’t the right environment for a female.


At first, I did let this put me off but then I decided tractors were the way forward for me.


This is when I approached every dealer/manufacturer at Grasslands to find work.


I also then arranged to complete a summer placement to expand my knowledge before starting at JCB.

In order to be on the apprenticeship scheme, I had to move 200 miles away from home to Uttoxeter, just after my 18th birthday.


This was quite a large step for me, but I knew that working for a company like JCB was too big an offer to pass up.


Why is agricultural engineering important?


Agricultural engineering is so important to the younger generation, even if it’s not a career they intend to get directly involved in.


The world’s population sat at 7.7 billion in 2019, with the UN predicting it’ll reach 11.2 billion by the end of the century.


This huge increase naturally brings around an even larger demand for food, yet a necessity for farmland needing to be converted to housing.


This combined with a decreased interest in jobs in farming, means that advances in agricultural engineering are paramount in securing a sustainable future. This naturally will bring a demand for the younger generation to get involved in careers in engineering.

The on stage reveal of a JCB Loadall Built by Apprentices
The on stage reveal of a JCB Loadall Built by Apprentices

The future of engineering

  • Sustainable Solutions

Protecting the environment is so important and in all sectors we will see an increase in designs and plans to create more environmentally friendly products, with alternative fuelling. In the construction industry for example, JCB recently released the first fully electric mini excavator.

  • Autonomy and Robotics

On the other hand, advancements in technology could see the introduction of robotics and autonomy enter the sector. This can already be seen in livestock with robotic milking (when a machine replaces a human to milk a cow), and on the production line with robotic welders.


Autonomy is another big area and there have already been concepts released for fully autonomous machines, something I believe we are likely to be seeing more progression to within the decade.


  • Precision Farming

Precision farming is a method of managing a farm which uses information technology to ensure crops and soil receive the exact nutrients they require to eventually produce the best yields, something highly relevant with the increasing population.


This could be an opportunity for manufacturers to develop their systems to match the requirements of this new kind of software.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time and why?


I am a keen member of Dorset Young Farmers and have held a range of positions within the club, now I’m living away from home I am less active than I used to be but I still go home as much as possible to compete in various competitions.


I am also an ambassador for the NFU (National Farmers Union) where they have a rep from each area of the country to represent young people in agriculture.


With this we get to take part in a variety of activities such as the Lord Mayor’s Show, Speakers For Schools, and recently a trip to Brussels for a tour of European Parliament in the few days before Brexit.



Top three benefits of working with JCB?

  • Opportunities


Working for such a large company is great as there is a huge range of pathways in to many different areas of the business, and multiple opportunities for continuous personal development and further education.


  • Support


Both the Global Learning team, which runs the apprenticeship schemes, and my colleagues in JCB Landpower provide a lot of support throughout the course.


Whether it’s with helping me decide what pathway is the best for me to get into the type of job I want, or with what I am doing with either YFC or the NFU outside of work. They’re all always willing to lend a hand.


  • Experience


Quite similar to opportunities, but the experience you can gain through working for JCB is endless.


The apprenticeship scheme gives you the chance to work through a variety of placements which allows you to see the process of manufacturing a product right from design to it being out in the field.


It allows you an involvement at every stage which gives a great understanding of the machine.


Top accounts you follow?


@JCB_Agriculture – the media team keep the content relevant and amusing, and #FastracFriday is ace


@NFYFC – to keep up with the National Federation of Young Farmers news. There are 22,000 members aged between 10-26 years old and 598 clubs across the UK.


Follow Poppy


Video: JCB Apprenticeship Challenge




Video: Made by Apprentices



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