Building People: Apprenticeships

Case Study:

The legislation around internships has been in the news recently and for good reason; the viability and opportunities of such positions, particularly if unpaid, are currently up for discussion. Having reviewed our apprenticeship scheme recently to tailor it to a new apprentice, the topic is fresh in the minds of Senior Management.

The term ‘Experience’ is bandied about a lot, as it should: practical experience of a job teaches the skills involved as well as giving an understanding of the industry. As a technical services provider, we pride ourselves in having management who are all time-served engineers, many of whom started as apprentices.

Our Apprenticeship Scheme has been going since 2006, and our newest apprentice, Marissa, was hired last week. The framework structure of our scheme works well: the apprentice splits their time between attending college, either on a block or day release basis, and working alongside our qualified engineers at various resident and mobile sites we maintain. To provide additional learning support and guidance, we allocate a mentor to each apprentice: a programme which has proven to be very successful.

“Mentoring [from other experienced engineers] has focused me…and broadens my knowledge and practical mind-set”

The framework we provide is tailored so that we can dovetail the particular specialism’s requirements (be it electrical, combustion or otherwise). This, perhaps, takes the largest consideration: academic courses are often very installation based and opportunities for some tasks occur less frequently for a company such as ourselves that is predominantly maintenance-based. Fortunately, projects undertaken offer opportunities: one of our current apprentices, Sam, spent much of his first and second year helping with the installation of cables for power, lighting and distribution boards at a site in Central London.

“The on-site training on our installation site was key to my progression and passing both level 2 and 3 in the same year”

The workload is tough so a passion for the field is definitely necessary. The college coursework and portfolios are demanding; with all the will in the world, fostering and support from engineers, management, admin and HR can only go so far to bridge a lack of enthusiasm. We are currently lucky to have six highly motivated apprentices, including one who was ‘highly commended’ at this year’s H&V News Awards in the Apprentice of the Year Category (as an aside, congratulations to the winner at Derry Building Services!).

H&VN_Anniversary logo_2014_Finalist_black

As we continue forward, it is important to consider two things:

1.   What have our apprentices gained from their time at Westway?

Through our apprentice programme we are able to nurture early on in their careers a sense of achievement and ownership in everything they do. We set the standard high with our expectations at college and on site to produce pieces of work, practical and written, that are concise and factual. In providing experience with more experienced engineers and their assigned mentors, the apprentices are given a chance to work to a standard closer to that which is required when they eventually go out into the workplace as a qualified engineer.

2.   What do Apprenticeship schemes give back to the Industry?

Our investment in our young apprentices means that we are able to keep qualifications for practical skills very much alive within the Industry.  The benefits are twofold: Westway gain through building and developing young people to a high level of workmanship. The Industry gains as we are able to maintain skills in an area of expertise that is seeing huge growth and potential. It is an investment in both their and our own future, fostering relationships and injecting energy and youth into our business.