It’s National Apprenticeship Week and here at Gilks (Nantwich) Ltd we are celebrating by speaking to two of our apprentices, Oliver Edwards and Louis Clark, to find out how they are getting on at Stage 2 and Stage 3, respectively, of their apprenticeship.
Oliver’s family already worked in the construction industry as Quantity Surveyors. Although he was interested in the industry, he wanted to take a different route and train as an electrician.
“My family were very encouraging, particularly my dad, who knew of Gilks and recommended it as a great place to work. My friends understood my decision, but I was the only one in our group to do an apprenticeship, the rest of them went off to uni so I felt like the black sheep to start with! At school, I was always pushed towards the university route as the school felt that it reflected better on them, but I was determined to find my own path and do my own thing. I knew engineering was a good career to get into, it’s a secure job, there are many different branches of it, you can work anywhere in the world once you qualify. I have always enjoyed getting out and about but am also interested in pursuing an office-based role at some point in the future, and these are all the options that are available to me. I’m driven to continue to progress through the ranks and see where my career takes me.
“Doing an apprenticeship during COVID hasn’t affected me too badly – I was furloughed for 3 weeks as we couldn’t get deliveries of plaster and plasterboard required to finish a job on site at the time, but I’m back and working again now that things have evened out a bit more. It is getting to crunch time; I have lots of assignments but can’t get into college to progress some drawings and handwritten work. Although we are doing some work virtually, I’m hoping to return to normal soon.”
Louis is one year ahead and was driven to choose an apprenticeship as he felt it was the best option to get straight into work and earning following his GCSE’s, while obtaining a formal qualification. Like Oliver, Louis was questioned over his choice to do an apprenticeship, with the school surprised to learn he would not be attending 6th Form. He did, however, have a group of friends who were doing apprenticeships and spoke highly of the scheme.
“An apprenticeship was far more beneficial for me. It has a lot of plusses – you make a living while you work and learn, you invest in your future and education and can use what you learn to work anywhere in the world. I didn’t waste any time – I completed my GCSE’s in the summer and secured an apprenticeship by autumn! I applied via JTL Training and, within a couple of weeks, I had attended two interviews and got the job. I then broke my leg playing football – but the Gilks team were superb in how they handled it and delayed my start date for me. It was important for me to be accepted by Gilks as, when I researched their work, it really intrigued me, I felt really passionate about it!
“Engineering appealed to me because it’s, not only hands on, but involves a lot of thinking and problem-solving. I’m currently working on a hotel design project at college and completing the electrical drawings for the building – I have to ensure all of the calculations are correct for it to happen. Although I have been doing much of this at home due to COVID, the college has managed it well. The pandemic has been harder to manage with things like delayed deliveries impacting our ability to work, difficulties travelling in the same vehicle, and social distancing, as of course I have to work with someone else until I qualify. But we have got used to it, a mask is now just part of the uniform. COVID or not, I just want to keep learning and pushing myself until I’m ready to qualify and then start to explore where I want to take it next.
Both Louis and Oliver agree when it comes to recruiting new talent to secure the future of UK engineering.
“The time is definitely right to try to appeal to wider group of people,” confirms Louis, “and that needs to start in the school system where Sixth Form or university routes are drilled into you, and when engineering is brought up, there is not enough emphasis on the fact than anyone can do this job, even at school it is more aimed at men.”
Oliver agrees, “It’s interesting as we have no women in our college year group, and we are a small group of seven, so we are missing something. I agree that it is still viewed as a ‘male job’ and it really shouldn’t be anymore. We just need more engineers.”
An apprenticeship with Gilks offers a great opportunity to school-leavers, whether having completed their GCSE’s or A-Levels, and depending on their suitability for the role and career aspirations. Apprenticeships normally takes around 4 years to complete – and our apprentices are on-site from the first day, so they hit the ground running. They travel to different sites, and have plenty of early starts and an enthusiasm for getting on with the job. They work alongside a fully qualified electrician when on site, and there is an Apprentice Mentor based at the Nantwich office, to support them, alongside our training provider, JTL Training. Our apprentices attend college once a week, and this can be at either Rebus Training in Stoke-on-Trent, or Cheshire College in Crewe. We are committed to giving them a variety of experience on-site, in preparation for their final exam and grading as an Electrician. Our apprentices are very much part of the Gilks team from day one.
If you, or someone you know is considering an apprenticeship, it may be useful to know that we recruit our apprentices during September, so we begin to accept applications over the Summer. We are trying to work harder to appeal to, and encourage, BAME and female applicants to consider the scheme as a great career opportunity – we want to ensure the future of engineering is well-represented across the board!
Follow our social channels to find out when we begin the next recruitment process.