|Apprenticeship||Rail Engineering Technician – Traction and Rolling Stock|
Chris is a first-year Engineering Apprentice with Southeastern Railway and spoke to us about his Apprenticeship journey so far and how he wishes he had done an Apprenticeship sooner.
“I was always interested in engineering from a young age and I was also in the air cadets. I wanted to become an Air Craft Engineer in the RAF, but due to unforeseen circumstances, this wasn’t to be. After working for eight years in a vast range of jobs at a Nursery, Golf Club and being a Bus Driver, I decided I wanted to get back into engineering. I always wanted a career within engineering and I thought the next alternative to air crafts would be trains, so I started looking at civilian engineering and when a friend who works at the company told me about the Southeastern Apprenticeship, it was the perfect fit for me. The Apprenticeship duration is four years; the first year is based in the IPS workshop, full time, Monday to Friday and the rest of the time will be in the workplace with one day a week to the IPS workshop (day release). I honestly wish I did it sooner; I turned 27 this year and have been out of school for eight years, so it was an adjustment to go back into a learning environment, but I have enjoyed learning the foundations at the IPS workshop so far.
I started my Apprenticeship at the end of August last year, so we’re just at the end of the 1st year. This year has all been based in the workshop, except for half term when we go back into the workplace and work in the depot a little bit. I like the balance of learning and being hands-on in the workplace. This year at IPS has been broken down into two sections, you have got the theoretical side, which is the BTEC and then the more practical side, which is the NVQ. For the BTEC we have focused on four main units: Engineering mathematics, Health and Safety, Electrical Maintenance and Mechanical Maintenance. For the NVQ, we have been learning six units: Wire and Test, PLC’s, Fluid Power, Bench, Electrical and Mechanical Maintenance. We have had a vast selection to learn, my favourite units are a cross between Wire and Test and Bench, for different reasons. Wire and Test is full on electrical whereas Bench is more hand tools, I’m a very hands on person. I’m pretty good with tools as I work on cars in my own time, so I was confident I would be okay on that, but the electrical side was utterly new to me. I’ve enjoyed developing these new skills and feel like I’ve gained this skill not just for work but in general too and in terms of home life. I have recently just bought a house and I feel the things I have learned in the workshop will help me be confident enough to implement, even if it’s just things like changing a light fitting, I feel like I have that knowledge now to be able to do it. Not only do it, but to do it safely.
In terms of my job at Southeastern, it is more the electrical side, such as fault finding with all the electrics on the trains, so if there are recurring problems, it would mean diagnosing why this is happening. Working from wiring looms, PLC’s and all different kinds of electrical boxes, so as you can imagine, there are quite a lot of details.
The learning aspect of my Apprenticeship is going well, I think where I’m slightly older than the others and have had previous work experience, the learning/studying aspect has been an adjustment, but it’s been great learning the basics which are so essential. The IPS Trainers have been brilliant, they all have an engineering background, and some have even been Apprentices themselves, so they have the key knowledge to pass down. The great thing about the IPS Trainers is that when they are teaching, they give you real-life scenarios and put things into perspective, which I don’t think you can get with just studying through a workbook. I have a good relationship with them and it was made very clear from day one at induction that if we need anything, they are there for us.
I would highly recommend Apprenticeships. Personally, it has given me the fundamental skills to be able to start a career within engineering, so at the end of it I will come out with a Level 3 BTEC and NVQ in Engineering and I can take that anywhere within the industry. For me, yes, I did have GCSE’s and A-Levels, but I didn’t have any engineering qualifications, so if it weren’t for my Apprenticeship, I wouldn’t have been able to get into this career path. There are also chances to get even further education; our employer can sometimes offer an HNC/HND, which is a fantastic opportunity; there is so much room for progression. Once completing my Apprenticeship in 3 years I’m looking to progress throughout Southeastern as it’s a fantastic company, I would like to become a Team Leader or the 1st point of call Engineer for other engineers, so in 5 years, I would like to progress and have added responsibility.
Apprenticeships help you gain knowledge, develop and give you career progression and it gives you the foundations to build upon, it’s not completely like school, yes, you’re studying, but you’re also developing practical skills, the best of both worlds. Also, not only is your Apprenticeship and qualifications paid for, but you get paid a wage at the same time, which is brilliant. I wish I did it sooner, I thought I had the career I wanted to go down and it didn’t work out, but I’m here now and that’s all that matters, I think it’s fantastic there’s no age limit on doing an Apprenticeship.
IPS wish Chris all the best with his continued programme – good luck!