Made It! Why work beats school for Will

Will Morton really didn’t like exams - but he does like technology, travel, learning and being inspired.

Monday, 10th February 2020, 4:39 pm

So he left school at 16 - breaking the mould at ‘A’ levels-focused Silverdale School - and got a job with Sheffield tech company Tribosonics.

From the off, he got to be hands-on with the firm’s sensor products, learning how they work and how they break. And he got to travel abroad, gained responsibilities and friends and was encouraged by bosses every step of the way.

Combined with his own desire to do well, he finished an apprenticeship and is now doing a degree.

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Young rising stars at hi-tech manufacturing firm Tribosonics in Sheffield, with Christina King, head of strategic partnerships. Picture: Chris Etchells

Ironically, that means he’s doing exams again, but this time that’s okay.

Will, aged 20, said: “Everything I’ve done has been amazing - being able to push myself and learn new skills. I’ve travelled around Europe and gained so much workplace experience.

“I always felt a passion to do well but it also comes with who you hang around with, like if your friends are lazy or laid-back.

“Tom my manager and founder Phil Harper have inspired me to achieve and make the most of what I’ve been given. It’s been a crazy roller coaster ride but I’m glad I’m on it. The other apprentices would say the same.

Made It!

“My advice is to give everything your best shot, if you don’t it’s pointless.”

Tribosonics, at Edmund Road Business Centre, Sheffield, employs 16 and seven apprentices. Its technology uses ultrasound to measure friction and lubrication in machinery and is used by Formula 1 teams and in the nuclear, civil engineering, oil and gas industries.

Will was quite good at maths and physics and enjoyed tinkering with his bike and taking things apart.

After finishing his GCSEs he went on several courses where he took part in problem solving tasks and learned about big companies. From them, he knew he wanted to be an engineer.

Degree apprentice Will Morton. Picture: Chris Etchells

One course was at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, part of Sheffield University, where he was impressed by the equipment and facilities.

He returned for an assessment and through that met the Tribosonics team, before being invited to the firm for an interview.

Today he works there four days and attends Sheffield University one day a week for lectures and tutorials on his apprenticeship degree in mechanical engineering.

He said: “The degree is quite intense, there’s a lot of work to do at home and revision, you don’t get the laid-back university experience.

Apprentice Jacob Houlder.

"I’m aiming to work my way up at Tribosonics and become the best engineer I can. I feel like I’ve found what I want to do and who I want to be. My communication and confidence have improved as well.

“My friends said I was stupid to leave school. A year later some said they wished they had done the same as me. If ‘A’-levels aren’t right find something that is.”

Chief executive Glenn Fletcher said: “Come and talk to us and we will put 100 per cent into your career.”


Christina King says before deciding what job to do, go to as many events and meet as many people as possible and see if any of them inspire you.

Don’t write anything off.

Young rising stars at hi-tech manufacturing firm Tribosonics in Sheffield. Pictured is apprentice Ben Wright. Picture: Chris Etchells

“Teachers say to me that pupils, especially boys, tend to go for easier subjects. But look at the people urging them to take the more difficult route and decide if you want some of that.”

Christina, head of strategic operations at Tribosonics, knows how exciting a job can be.

Last year, with motorcycle racer Guy Martin, she broke the world speed record for a motorless vehicle, hitting 85.61mph.

As a teenager she got a scholarship to be a fighter pilot, but failed the medical. That’s when she decided to study engineering. Today, she uses her knowledge to talk to firms about Tribosonics’ products.

“I wanted to do something I could talk to people about down the pub that interested them and interested me too.”

Women in engineering are in a minority but that helps you get noticed, people are more open, within and outside the company, and barriers generally are dropped, she says.

“It has changed, women are not unusual any more and I think it’s a lot more positive. I like tech, we have great programmers and mechanical engineers at Tribosonics. Problem solving is at the core of what we are about.”


Jacob Houlden studied maths, physics and product design at Dronfield Henry Fanshawe’s sixth form.

He’s now a Tribosonics apprentice studying at the AMRC.

He said: “The first impression I got was that they were a very close-knit, friendly, and welcoming group of people. It was clear I wouldn’t be doing just one job all the time as I could see people from the office getting involved in lab work, and vice versa.”

Luke Dawson first met Tribosonics at an apprenticeship fair and was immediately interested by the idea of working for a smaller, forward-thinking company that would place responsibility on him.

“I was keen to be one of the team from day one, getting involved with real commercial projects and helping to solve real customer projects.”

Louis Scholes completed an engineering BTEC and worked part-time as a cycle mechanic, before joining Tribosonics as an apprentice in September.

“I have a passion for all things mechanical and in my spare time I enjoy mountain biking and working on my classic car.”

Ben Wright started building his own PC aged 15, which he still uses today five years later.

“I came across Tribosonics through the AMRC Training Centre ‘job matching event’, their stall and the wide variety of engineering disciplines on offer really caught my eye. I was then invited in for a full day interview which put all mechanical, electrical and various other skills to the test, and the rest is history.”

Apprentice Louis Scholes.
Young rising stars at hi-tech manufacturing firm Tribosonics in Sheffield. Pictured is apprentice Luke Dawson. Picture: Chris Etchells
Young rising stars at hi-tech manufacturing firm Tribosonics in Sheffield. Pictured is apprentice Reece Turner. Picture: Chris Etchells