Why did you choose an apprenticeship?
When I left school, it was unusual for anyone to go to university. There were many companies in the area that would hold open days and even examinations so that they could take their pick of the local school leavers. Companies like Cummins, Torringtons, Eaton Axles, British Rail, Cleveland Bridge, Whessoe all had a presence in the area, along with Conder Structures. It was Conder Structures who offered me a contract before I sat my O-levels.
How would you describe your time and learning as an apprentice?
My time as an apprentice was a fantastic learning experience. Conder Structures was part of the Conder Group of companies and they were active in many different aspects of the building process. Their technical group was progressive, innovative and were consulted for preparation of steel design codes, especially in relation to Plastic Design of Steel Structures. The company had departments for Drawing Office, Structural Design, Cladding, Contracts, Estimating and Sales and the apprentice would spend a period of time with each department. In addition a period of time was spent in the fabrication shop in the Midlands. I had most affinity for drawing and design and specialised in these areas towards the final years of the apprenticeship.
The day release to attend local college was a part of the apprenticeship scheme. This did not sit easily with me, as the courses at the colleges never gave the intensity of study that my career path would have chosen. So additional ‘night school’ was the option to travel to Teesside Polytechnic to take additional structural design units.
What was your favourite aspect of your apprenticeship?
It is difficult to pick a favourite aspect. I was bursting with energy and a thirst for knowledge. I loved to find out new details and work on portal frames, trusses and multi-storey buildings. I liked to finish a project and I liked to start a new project. I enjoyed working as a team.
How do you feel your apprenticeship prepared you for a future career?
Almost exactly for the reasons that I enjoyed the apprenticeship are the reasons why I feel I was prepared for my future. Working in a team, with the knowledge learned from the various departments that I had been a part of. In this way I was prepared for the challenges in design and drawing as I had knowledge of the issues that could be pertinent in the other areas that would be effected by those design and drawings. The fabrication shop; what details they needed and what details they loathed. The erection team on site; how they worked and prepared for the steelwork on site. The challenges on site and what could be done to mitigate them (though Mr Soar should not have asked me to walk along 133 mm wide rafters at 10 m in the air with no harness !)
As a business, what do you see as the benefits of taking on an apprentice?
The great benefit to taking on an apprentice is that you teach the young person the skills that you want them to develop to suit your own company processes. As opposed to graduate engineers who often have a predisposition of what is required, the apprentice is a ‘blank canvass’ with little prior knowledge of exact processes but a good basic education and a lot of enthusiasm.
As a business, what tips would you have for businesses contemplating taking on an apprentice?
I would say “embrace it and go with it”. For me it makes commercial sense and adds to the growth of the company. You are creating an employee who has the interest of the company at the heart of their professional life.
As a business, do you feel apprenticeships are an effective way to cultivate skills?
Personally, I think it is a great and effective way to cultivate skills.
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