An insight from a PCB Design Apprentice

An insight from a PCB Design Apprentice

By: Elliot Langran
PCB Design Apprentice

26th April 2017

Hello, I’m Elliot Langran and I am the PCB Design Apprentice here at Plextek, I started in September and here is an insight from my perspective of life as an apprentice.

I generally get into the office between 9 – 9:30 am, being a young person, I’m extremely grateful for our flexible working hours. It does mean staying later than most, but at least I can claim I’m running the show later in the day, if only for an hour or so. I start the day catching up with the team and of course grabbing a cup of tea to get me kick-started. The first thing I do is get everything set up including the Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools, and PADS layout, the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design software. I’d be lost without these.


Being a PCB Design Apprentice is really varied and my average day can be spent doing a range of different things, generally speaking, no two tasks are the same. When I started my apprenticeship, I luckily wasn’t expected to know how to design a 12 layered PCB.

However, excitingly, I am now on my way to gaining the relevant skills. This makes a 12 layered PCB less of a daunting idea as each day I am developing and learning.

One thing that has become apparent to me is that each PCB designer has their own style as each designer lays out their board differently (it’s nice to know that I will develop a PCB signature). Understanding and being exposed to a range of layout options and developing multiple skill sets is vital for me in crafting my own style further.


What I enjoy about the job is the creativity and it’s one of the first principles that I was taught here: never copy anybody else’s design, and develop your own style and way of working instead. This is helped by the constant support and guidance from my mentors. They are always advising and guiding me on where improvements can be made and are key people in my development as an apprentice.

I’ve been learning a lot by looking at the other designers’ work from time to time and noting their style of approaching layouts for example. They can work on as many as 16 layers of PCB board, it’s quite crazy actually. I am currently able to work up to 4 layers and the tracking gets more complicated each time you go up a layer pair. This is made even more challenging if you have less board space to work on.

I also spend some of my time working on mechanical drawings, which really brings extended variety to my work day! These drawings are needed often during projects, especially for cable assemblies.


So there is a lot of variety in my job; PCB design, schematics and sometimes mechanical drawings, not to mention college work as well. My line manager and mentor are always really supportive of my college work and both think it is important to get done whenever there is a quiet moment. This has been vital to my success in my apprenticeship studies and is greatly appreciated.

The organisation is always showing great enthusiasm towards the apprenticeship scheme and my personal development. This has been recognised by my college, Cambridge Regional College, at this year’s Apprenticeship Awards as we won “Engineering Employer of the Year Award”. I look forward to developing here during my apprenticeship and the adventures and interesting projects that await me.