Tom Williams, aged 21, has always had a passion for engineering. From a young age, he’s been intrigued by the process of product creation and improvement. With past engineering experience due to an internship and varied involvement in projects, Tom decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University.

For his placement year, Penny Hydraulics were eager to employ Tom as a Design Engineer. This is due to the Managing Director having increased knowledge about the course so there were no misunderstandings about Tom’s knowledge and competency level.


When asked about his decision to join Penny Hydraulics, Tom was impressed by the “start to finish” process of the products all being on one site. He enthused: “This placement gave me the opportunity to design in CAD and see the product being brought to life in the factory.

Due to the vast range of products, Penny Hydraulics covers all aspects of engineering roles which benefitted my understanding of the different areas of engineering and gaining experience.”

Tom also chose Penny Hydraulics due to their well-respected reputation in the local business community as well as being able to live in Sheffield, near his university, and work locally.

Explaining his day to day at Penny Hydraulics, Tom enthused: “Every day presents new opportunities!”

Varying from refining the CAD models, updating technical drawings and parts lists for the knuckle joint cranes to liaising with different departments daily, no two days are the same as a Design Engineer.

More specifically, Tom helps to make sure everything is done correctly and documented in the right way. He has also spent a lot of time checking things with the shop floor and even had a few days building the cranes to gain knowledge and experience.


Penny Hydraulics helped me take the first step into my engineering career – Penny Hydraulics Ltd

In his role, Tom has been able to learn more about the products from being so hands on and seeing the product being built from start to finish. He further commented that having the flexibility to venture into different engineering opportunities with Penny Hydraulics has been a huge benefit to increasing his knowledge within the industry.

However, being a placement student has brought its own set of challenges to overcome. Learning the ropes of the business whilst working on tasks has given Tom the chance to practice his organisation and time management skills so he can maintain the high standard of work Penny Hydraulics requires.

When asked about tackling these challenges, Tom commented: “The key to overcoming this is asking questions, no matter how silly they seem and trying to find out why things are done how they are because I knew that would come in handy later on.

I have really tried to overcome things by giving them a go (if sensible to do so) and while this has led to mistakes, I have always learnt from them.”

Looking to the future, Tom hopes to set up the data management system used by the engineers in the business, as well as having refined the models, drawings and parts lists. He further hopes to be involved in design projects throughout the year and input the theoretical knowledge that he learnt in the classroom into practical projects.

When asked whether he would recommend Penny Hydraulics to other students wanting a placement and career in engineering, Tom boasted: “Yes! You can really gain a lot from everything being done on one site and lots of things being bespoke, especially if you’re in the early stages of your career. There is a great balance of re-enforcing ‘classroom’ knowledge while gaining practical skills at the same time.

If you’re going to pursue a placement year to learn more than you can gain from university, there’s no better place than Penny Hydraulics”.

At Penny Hydraulics, we thrive on providing young adults, like Tom, with the most beneficial experience to taking those important first steps into the career of their choice. Penny Hydraulics are excited to see Tom’s progression throughout his time with us.

Are you an engineering student who is inspired by Tom’s story? Find out more about our work placement options by contacting us on 01246 811475.