Daresbury Laboratory – Cheshire
"I like fixing things and seeing how they work"
When did you start your training?
I started the apprenticeship in 2012. I was in the second year of college finishing my A-levels, but I wasn’t really interested – I just didn’t know what else to do. Everyone else was going off to university, and I didn’t think it was going to be for me.
I’d always liked the idea of doing an engineering degree, so I thought I’d look at apprenticeships, because you get paid a wage while you are learning.
What was your apprentice training scheme like?
The first year you start off in college getting a good grounding in engineering, so if you go down the electrical route or the mechanical route you have the bread and butter knowledge you need. I came back to Daresbury for my second year and shadowed people for the first few months, just picking up the skills and getting to know people.
During the third year I started to specialise more in electrical engineering, and the fourth year was solely spent specialising to be an electrical technician, so I’ve got a good understanding of what I’m doing. They don’t like to throw you in at the deep end here – they like to ease you into it.
What did you enjoy about your engineering apprenticeship?
My highlight was having the opportunity to go to France last year to ILL and ESRF (an international research centre). I went with an electrical engineering apprentice and a mechanical engineering apprentice from Daresbury, and eight apprentices from our other site in Oxfordshire, on a four-week work placement. I was based with the electrical services team, and they were doing maintenance on the neutron reactor. That’s what I am interested in, so that was really good experience. Not many people spoke English so we had to learn the language (and use a lot of hand gestures!). It was just like living in France for a month.
As an alternative to university, it’s fantastic. If you’ve got the drive and you put the effort in it’s a great career. You get really good qualifications and good experience, because you’re building particle accelerators! When you try and tell people that in pubs they never believe you.
What are you going to do next?
I’d like to get into the maintenance side of things. I like fixing things, and seeing how they work, so would like to do that in any industry. I want to go and experience different things and different environments. There are chemical factories and power generation facilities around where I live, and my dad has had a good career working offshore so I might try that. The world’s a big place.
“There are a lot of different routes you can go down as an engineering apprentice. It’s not ‘there’s your job, now do that for the rest of your life’. It opens a lot of doors.”
Inspired by Tom’s story?
Find out more about his apprenticeship scheme.