BTEC Higher Nationals Case Study: Vinod Salim
Vinod Salim is based in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka - he completed his Higher National Diploma in Electrical Engineering in December 2020 at Sri Lanka Telecom Training Center. He is now working as an Assistant Electrical Engineer at a leading engineering company, while reading for his final year Bachelors in Electrical & Electronic Engineering.
Why a BTEC Higher National?
Whilst studying for a diploma with City & Guilds, Vinod decided to do some research into the best next steps for the job role that he wanted in the future. As well as looking up study options, he sought to understand what skills employers were looking for in job adverts.
All of this led him to a BTEC Higher National, which would enable him to progress onto a top-up degree. He studied his HND full-time, but was also working part-time, which meant that time management and organisation were key to being able to get everything done.
One of his favourite units was Engineering Management, as he felt that he could apply the knowledge that he had already learnt in the workplace. He also particularly enjoyed getting stuck into the Research Project, which was based on developing techniques using image processing to classify fertile and infertile eggs prior to incubation, which is a crucial problem that the poultry industry faces in Sri Lanka. Engaging in the research project also enabled him to showcase his independent learning and project management skills.
Vinod spoke about his experience of studying during the COVID-19 pandemic. He really enjoyed his first year; being on-campus, getting involved in extra-curricular activities and the social interaction with peers and teachers. However, his second year was predominantly spent studying online, which he found challenging as he had not done it before. He found that it wasn’t as interactive, and so some of the information was harder to pick up. It also meant that it took slightly longer to complete the course.
Despite these difficult times, Vinod completed his qualification and has started a top-up degree online with the University of the West of England, and his experience of learning online for his HN has helped prepare him for classes and independent learning. In addition, he received an award for being the batch top of the class in 19/20, which filled him with immense pleasure and pride.
The benefit of practical experience
Vinod has held several roles within the engineering sector. Whilst studying for his HND, he worked part-time at Frosty Link (Pvt) Ltd. as an Engineering Supervisor. This role involved testing and commissioning projects across the country, while also being responsible for site coordination. He inspected work for the assigned projects, abiding to quality policies of the company as well as quality standards given by standard institutions.
Now employed at APS Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, Vinod works as an Assistant Electrical Engineer and is currently assigned to a Japanese construction project based in Colombo. He takes charge in managing and coordinating the electrical department of the site whilst overseeing the quality of their work, as well as providing guidance every step of the way from design to project execution. He spoke about how the electrical systems and management techniques that he learnt as part of his HND have really helped in the workplace, especially when working as part of a wider team.
The benefit of the practical experience has helped Vinod to have a sound knowledge in electrical system design, including:
- sizing and specifying electrical service equipment, transformers, control systems, protective relaying and/or overcurrent devices,
- cabling, conduiting and trunking,
- panel boards,
- SCADA and protective systems for low, medium and high voltage systems.
There is a difficult job market at the moment in Sri Lanka, with a lot of competition. Vinod is therefore considering doing an MBA in the future, to further improve his management skills, as he wants to go into the operational side of things. Whilst he likes the field work, he doesn’t see significant career growth in that area for him in Sri Lanka.
Vinod speaks very highly of his experience with HNs and feels that they got him to the position that he is in now. In his opinion, young people in Sri Lanka don’t always understand all the study options available to them as they are framed to a traditional pathway of how things worked for the generation before, and he would like to help change that.
In Sri Lanka, it is crucial to have the GCE Advanced level passed in school to pursue studies in engineering, which Vinod did not think of it as a necessary element in his career in engineering, as there are plenty of other paths that can be followed to gain a good career.