Did you know This week is National Apprenticeship Week?
This really got me thinking about where I started my career and how things have moved forward since then. Hopefully, this blog post will help a young person make a step towards learning a trade or a business owner to decide to take on an apprentice.
If I have learnt one thing in my career, it is that you are only as good as the people who teach you your trade.
How it all started
Although I started on a 2-year YTS course, this turned into a Time Served Apprenticeship, looking back on those days makes me feel really nostalgic about my humble beginnings. The engineering shop I learned to be a toolmaker in was filled with ancient machines all over 50 years old. Many of the machines were so old that electric motors had been retrofitted to them.
We had very little in the way of equipment, but I had a manager that would never turn down a job because we didn’t have the correct equipment to make something. I learnt that you could most likely solve every problem you come across if you think outside the box no matter what you have to hand.
In fact, last year, Ian Fellows invited me out for a meal. It was very humbling to be talking to the man who first put his trust in me. But most importantly, it gave me a chance to thank him. Had Ian not taken a risk on an argumentative, opinionated teenager in the mid-1980s, my career path may have been very different.
What I enjoyed about being an apprentice.
I learnt a lot during my apprenticeship
I also learnt how to take a joke gracefully, how to look busy when the boss walked past, and how important it was to build relationships and even friendships with my colleagues so I knew I could trust and rely on should the smelly stuff hit the fan.
Another thing I learnt was a very important life lesson and that was that “it is nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice”.
I worked for MPI for around 20 years, and I have to say it was, without doubt, the best job I have ever had.
I was employed as a senior design engineer, but I never stopped learning. There was always a training course or a book or something that I could do to learn something else. I learnt about project management, cleanroom practices, materials. Every day is really is a school day.
My top six tips for apprentices
- Never be afraid to ask a question. It really is true the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.
- Always listen to the skilled workers, they really do know best. You are welcome to disagree with them, but they will most likely prove you wrong.
- Learn to make a good cup of tea. Your colleagues will be thankful you remembered they like 3 sugars in the blue cup, and not too much milk.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. There will be times when you do something silly or get caught out in a prank. Don’t worry about it; it happens to us all. Even me, I was caught out more than once. Learn to laugh it off. You will enjoy your apprenticeship much more.
- Be passionate about your chosen trade. Even if it’s just a little bit passionate, you will have a burning desire to learn, and you will soak up more knowledge than you think is possible.
- Enjoy your apprenticeship. You will look back on it in years to come and realise just how important a time it was in your life and your career, it really does help to shape your future.
One more thing. To quote Ray Wadey, “be careful who you step over on the way up, you may need their help should you ever fall down”.