One-on-One Role Model Series – Dr Nelson Ogunshakin from Association of Consultancy and Engineering (ACE)

One-on-One Role Model Series – Dr Nelson Ogunshakin from Association of Consultancy and Engineering (ACE)

Continuing ACE Group and TAC's celebration of apprentices during National Apprenticeship Week, we asked Dr Ogunshakin to reflect upon how his apprenticeship impacted his career path, and his views on apprentices today.

Why did you choose an apprenticeship to begin your career in the industry?

My father was an engineer and as with most parental figures, he was a role model for me particularly when I was contemplating how to start my career. I decided to start as an apprentice since I was keen to learn, progress, but also to earn money at the same time. I sought the combination of hands on learning experience with classroom learning, combining the standards and qualifications with day-to-day realities of the job. I was able to gain education, such as an Engineering degree at Aston without being too worried since the company took care of the costs. This made the entire process much more enjoyable.

How would you describe your time and learning as an apprentice?
My apprenticeship was such an enjoyable time, I was learning everyday –whether in the classroom or the workplace. It a great blend of the different learning methods, and I was able to start progressing in my career immediately. As an apprentice it is great because you don’t have to wait three years to be involved in a real project.

What was your favourite aspect of your apprenticeship?
My favourite aspect, and some of my best memories stem from my learning experiences with various mentors, and in general being encouraged by colleagues to conquer different challenges. I was very lucky to have such opportunities.

Of course, there were challenges as well; the feeling of being the odd one out is something that I had to take on board and use this as yet another push to achieve. 

How do you feel your apprenticeship prepared you for a future Career?
My apprenticeship was one of the most exciting times in my life, when I was learning and exploring potential career opportunities without being bogged down in worries about being able to support myself, since expenses were covered. Without this blend of both technical and hands on know-how, or without the support of my mentors and colleagues, my career would have been very different. My apprenticeship gave me progressive work and learning opportunities that were both absorbable and manageable.  

I was lucky; however I believe that we make our own luck, and I have always held myself to account for making the most of opportunities I am given. I believed then and still believe that the harder I work, the more successful that I am.

As a business leader, what do you see as the benefits of taking on an apprentice?
There are numerous benefits to taking on an apprentice, many of which are directly connected to current business imperatives within this industry.

It is undeniably a business imperative to reduce the cost in the time gap between employees, and it is when employees remain with a company longer that they perform better at their jobs. Taking someone on as an apprentice, allows you to impact what type of employee they become. Giving them real responsibilities and fostering their skills brings them into the company ethos, oftentimes encouraging them to remain at the company longer and increasing their sense of company loyalty.

ACE has an apprentice and it has been a fantastic experience, watching skills and confidence grow – ACE’s apprentice is a true member of our team.

As a business, what tips would you have for businesses contemplating taking on an apprentice?
Businesses must bear in mind that our industry is ageing and the costs associated with an education has become very expensive, which means that without the industry fostering talent, the pool of potential employees will be quite limited. And for an industry that thrives off of innovation and new ideas this is not desirable.

We have to think of it as a family, by bringing potential talent into the company sooner this not only means we don’t have to wait 3-5 years until finished university to start workplace training, it also means that we are able to retain employees longer by investing in their skills, and that by not limiting ourselves to graduate we increase all sorts of diversity in talent. This will continue to drive down the gap between those coming into the industry.

And inevitably if everyone in the industry invested in those with talent potential, it will not matter where they go after their apprenticeship, because we will have fostered a pipeline of talent to fill the current and upcoming skills gap.

We have difficulty keeping all newcomers within the industry, but for apprentices by NVQ level they are fully embedded in the industry, knowing the entire supply chain and all processes, decreasing the chance of them leaving the industry.

As a business, do you feel apprenticeships are an effective way to cultivate skills?
Absolutely yes! Apprentices are integral to creating sustainable industry skills.

With the fast moving pace of the industry and increased mobility the earlier we bring in potential talent the better, as I explained this not only helps close the gap between those with degrees and not, but it creates a strong base of usable workplace skills, is cost effective for increased skill and productivity, engages new talent strongly with existing company culture, increases diversity by looking at talent potential not the ability to pay educational bills, and ultimately provides apprentices with a set of long term career skills.