Stories from apprentices
The AMRC Training Centre’s current apprentices discuss why they chose an apprenticeship and how their training is helping them on their chosen career path.
National Apprenticeship Week 2017, which ran from 6–10 March, was the 10th event of its kind. It focused on celebrating the success of apprenticeships over the last decade and encouraging even more people to choose apprenticeships.
Heidi Butterfield, Kostal UK
Heidi Butterfield, 19, degree apprentice in Design Quality Inspection with Kostal UK, Goldthorpe, Rotherham
Inspired by her Dad’s successful engineering career Heidi Butterfield knew when she left school she wanted to work in the same field.
But with a guaranteed job high on her wish-list, the talented 19-year-old opted against following in the footsteps of most of her family by going to university and instead secured an apprenticeship.
Now she is studying for a Degree Apprenticeship in Design Quality Inspection at the AMRC Training Centre and is employed by international manufacturer Kostal UK, based at Goldthorpe.
“An apprenticeship always appealed to me more than university,” said Heidi. “I am working and earning a decent wage but also learning skills I need for my career.
“Kostal is a huge international company and there are lots of opportunities, especially to travel, which I would like to do in the future.
“Most of my friends are at university and my sister is. I think I am the only one doing an apprenticeship but I have made the right decision for me and I hope to continue with my education after completing a foundation degree.
“I feel an apprenticeship can give you a head start; I’ll be able to hit the ground running when I have finished my training.
“I have also been able to do some great things since I started at the AMRC Training Centre; I have met Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the SNP and I was able to attend the event announcing McLaren coming to South Yorkshire.”
Sam Cowley, Davy Markham Ltd
Sam Cowley, 19, Davy Markham Ltd, Darnall, HNC apprentice in Design Quality Inspection/Technical Support
Sam, from Crookes, is a real advocate of apprenticeships.
After leaving Tapton School and going into construction, he found himself out of work at just 18 and unsure what his next career step should be.
Through the Prince's Trust he was offered a one-week programme at the AMRC Training Centre, which inspired him to embark on a career in engineering.
The scheme is targeted at 16- to 25-year-olds not in education, training or employment.
Sam impressed staff during the week and was himself equally impressed with the facilities and training on offer at the AMRC Training Centre.
“I knew after the Prince's Trust programme that I wanted a higher apprenticeship at the AMRC Training Centre and it was a great feeling to be accepted onto the course,” he said.
“I’m really enjoying what I do. I’m getting practical experience and doing things like 3D printing and working with robotics. The trainers here are first class too.”
Through the Prince's Trust Sam has also been to Westminster to speak to MPs about the importance of apprenticeships from his own personal experience.
Abbie Plummer, Symphony Group PLC
Abbie Plummer, 18, Electrical and Mechanical Maintenance apprentice with Symphony Group PLC, Rotherham
After achieving top marks in her GCSEs Abbie initially stayed on at sixth form to study A Levels but found she wasn’t enjoying being in the classroom.
“It wasn’t my way of learning. I like practical learning,” said Abbie from Brinsworth.
“I have always had an interest in engineering and making things. When I was younger my grandad, who was a steel engineer, had a shed full of tools and machinery. I used to spend hours playing and building things in there.
“When I first visited AMRC I was blown away by the facilities on offer – the training is the best in its field, and has a top level of teaching, too.
“Through my apprenticeship, I’m developing hands-on skills and gaining industry experience.
“I love what I do now. I would not want to do anything else. My grandad is really proud of me as well.
“It’s an amazing opportunity – learning and gaining skills whilst getting paid to study, and I won’t have any debt.
“Ideally I’d like to continue my apprenticeship right through to university studies.”
Jake Cawthorne, Gripple
Jake Cawthorne, 19, Mechanical and Electrical Maintenance apprentice with Gripple, Sheffield
Jake Cawthorne, from Charnock, will be a third-generation engineer when he qualifies. He never saw himself doing anything else.
The former Birley Community College student said: “I like practical learning and I don’t enjoy being in a classroom so the apprenticeship was perfect for me.
“All my family work in engineering and I always thought I would too.
“I've always worked on cars in my spare time. I have a 1965 Ford Anglia, which I bought and restored. Many of the skills I developed from working on cars are useful in my apprenticeship. To get a job where work is not work, where it’s an extension to your hobby, is amazing.
“I’m really enjoying what I do and the practical skills I am learning here are invaluable.”
Harry Mayes, Professional Lifting Services
Harry Mayes, 18, Mechanical Maintenance apprentice with Professional Lifting Services, Sheffield
“I’m a very practical person and I don’t think I could do something where I would be sat still for long parts of the day,” said Harry, a former Penistone Grammar School student.
“I just knew I wanted an apprenticeship. I approached the AMRC Training Centre and, after getting through an assessment, I was sent for interviews with several different companies, all local to where I lived and offering maintenance apprenticeships. I was fortunate to be offered apprenticeships with two of them.
“I would say the key is waiting for the right fit for you. The AMRC works with lots of different companies so there is always a right fit.
“There are lots of incentives during your apprenticeship; for example you get salary increases for reaching various milestones as you progress through your apprenticeship.
"I'm learning skills that are in demand and key to my job role. At the same time, I am gaining on-the-job experience.
“I would say to anyone considering an apprenticeship here, just go for it. What have you go to lose? And if you already have an employer then ask them if you can come here!
“I want to get fully qualified and then work my way up the career ladder.”
Wendy Miller, trainer and Learning and Teaching Lead at the AMRC Training Centre
In the 1970s, AMRC engineering trainer Wendy Miller became the first full-time female student to study engineering at Granville (now Sheffield) College.
Now, over 30 years later and using the experience gained through a varied and challenging career in the engineering and manufacturing sector, Wendy is inspiring the next generation of young engineers as a trainer at the AMRC Training Centre. As Learning and Teaching Lead she is now engaged in making it clear that the vocational education route has the same esteem as the academic alone.
The AMRC Training Centre provides a variety of apprenticeships, from manufacturing and engineering to business and administration. Like many providers of education or companies working in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) sectors, female apprentices are still under-represented, as they were when Wendy studied technical drawing at school.
“I had seen technical drawings at my dad’s engineering business and thought that I’d like to give it a go. Girls weren’t supposed to do things like that at school back then. My school made me take extra lessons over the summer holidays so that I could take it as an O Level – as a girl had never taken it before.
“I was often going to job interviews when I was younger and I was the only female there.”
Wendy believes girls studying and moving into careers in engineering still have to be brave to strike out on their own:
“The perception that engineering is dirty and involves things like car mechanics or fixing washing machines is a problem. When girls reach a certain age, peer pressure kicks in. Not many want to do it and it takes a brave person to do something different to all their friends.”
I’ve travelled around the UK working with different professions. Seeing something in place that you've designed is fantastic.
Wendy Miller, AMRC Training Centre trainer
Wendy thinks schools and parents can support and encourage girls to realise their potential in STEM subjects. She works with schools in the local region to encourage an equal balance of male and female students getting involved in STEM activities and open days at the AMRC Training Centre.
“My career in engineering has been really enjoyable and varied; it is never just being sat at a desk. I've travelled around the UK working with all different professions. It's about problem solving and calculating, and then seeing something in place that you’ve designed is fantastic.”
“We can go back 30 years, but we are still writing about the lack of women in engineering; the same stories written about myself then apply now. We need to actively change females’ perception of STEM careers. There is a world of opportunity out there for young women and we are missing a lot of talent. The diversity of engineering is just incredible. Young women (and men) need to be shown that modern manufacturing is for everyone.”