Name: James Burch
Qualification: Level 3 Maintenance & Operations Engineering Technician Apprenticeship
James Burch - Coca Cola European Partners Engineering Apprenticeship

 2021:

James is working on his Level 3 Maintenance & Operations Engineering Technician Apprenticeship Standard with IPS and his Employer Coca Cola European Partners, a leader in one of the largest FMCG sectors in Europe’s most significant. James spoke to us about his Apprenticeship experiences so far…

I was at sixth form at the time studying for my A-Levels in Engineering subjects; Engineering, Design & Technology and Mathematics, but I was still very unsure of what I wanted to do at the time and so I applied for both Universities and Apprenticeships. I considered Apprenticeships after taking my GCSEs, as my school suggested that this was a path I could take. I wanted to complete sixth form first as I was happy at the school and they were great at guiding us and giving us career options throughout sixth form. Coca-Cola EP visited my school promoting their Business and Engineering Apprenticeships and as I was in the process of applying, I decided to apply for the Coca-Cola EP Engineering Apprenticeships option. Other students and I were invited onsite to their workplace to get a better insight of what the Apprenticeship would include and from there I went onto the various interview stages, this included online games, tours of the factory, which was very interesting. Before I knew it, I was down to the final selection and this was where more intense interviewing took place; I got through and was offered the Apprenticeship. It was a great achievement as there were over 2,000 applying for the role at this time. I couldn’t reject something like that, I did have University placements on the table but I was so drawn towards the Apprenticeship from visiting the company and seeing what the programme had to offer and to beat other applicants to the role, it was definitely the right option for me.

I have been training now for 18 months, starting in September 2019. My induction was really cool, I went to Coca Cola EP head office in Uxbridge and we went through the programme and what the next few years will consist of. I then came to IPS and spent my 1st year in the IPS workshop, completing my functional skills for my NVQ and starting my BTEC qualification. I really enjoyed the practical side of the courses and now I’m in my second year I’m still studying for my BTEC, but I also get to be at the workplace 4 days a week completing work tasks and experience a working environment. I now get to implement the training I have learned onsite; I didn’t realise how much of what I learned at the IPS Workshop I would be able to relate in the workplace and use on a day to day basis. There was a time on my first functional skills unit I was doing bench, and one of my very first jobs getting introduced onsite I had to create a shadow board for spare parts and to do that I had to cut and file down pieces of stainless steel studding for the parts to rest on and I was able to use the skills I gained in bench, using a hatch saw and files properly to produce a good piece of work.

I have also picked up soft skills like time management, which was initially challenging at first, getting use to a study/work element, but now I’ve found my feet a bit more I know what to prioritise and I’m getting a good balance. As well as this being my first working role, my confidence has really increased and by learning this skill it has been key to helping me interact with people day to day basis, like contractors coming on to the site for example, meeting new people and you need to have a professional approach which is so different to school.

I think Apprenticeships are a great way to introduce someone to a working environment, you are supported and properly trained through the Apprenticeship scheme. Without the structure of an Apprenticeship you’re almost thrown in at the deep end without having adequate training and expected to get on with the job. With Apprenticeships you get the best of both worlds. At the IPS training workshop and within my workplace there are many well trained, experienced people who know what they are doing, and they are happy to support and guide you in multiple areas. I receive a lot of information and support in mechanical aspects through to electrical, PLC’S and also get introductory support in other aspects of maintenance.

It’s been challenging adapting to the change of lockdown, I was halfway through a machining unit which got cut short due to the pandemic and we were advised to work from home to complete the theory side of the functional skills units and BTEC. I was disappointed as I enjoyed the practical element and I actually really did come to miss it but working from home and completing the BTEC lessons through Microsoft Teams and having consistent feedback on my work has been really well managed by IPS due to the situation and I think the reaction by IPS was very professional. It was great to continue our work and in the end I did manage to go back in the summer and complete the remainder of my practical units and because we completed the theory work at home we didn’t get behind as much as we feared and it made it a lot easier to carry on training.

My goal within the Apprenticeship is to achieve the best grades and complete next year, I will be doing an HNC where I would be eager to learn more and complete. With those qualifications I would like a confirmed role in the factory and from there the goal is to apply my skills effectively and move up the ladder within Coca-Cola EP.

I believe that with an Apprenticeship there is not any downsides in my opinion, the benefits are that you as the Apprentice are studying and developing yourself,  contributing a service to a company which is great and from that you’re getting paid. The company is paying for your qualifications, you’re giving them a service and getting paid for it with no debt. When compared to a single qualification like from College or University, you have to then come out of it and seek employment but with an Apprenticeship you have this all combined!

 

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