Name: Theodore Bradley

Level 3 Maintenance and Operations Engineering Technician Apprenticeship



Theodore Bradley DS Smith Engineering Apprenticeship


Theo is currently working towards completing his Level 3 Maintenance and Operations Engineering Technician Apprenticeship with IPS and his employer DS Smith, working in the Kemsley Paper Mill, which is the second biggest recovered fibre-based paper operation in Europe. Theo is now in his 2nd year working at DS Smith as a Mechanical Fitter/Technician and spoke to IPS about his Apprenticeship experience so far and the benefits for Apprentices.

“Apprenticeships have always appealed to me over University as I enjoy practical working as it gives me the chance to be hands on in the work I currently do. Engineering has also been an interest for me since I was young and I made a wooden sculpture that was entered in an exhibition, I’ve always been designing in workshops and plus my father works in the Engineering sector, so we have a joint interest. My father was a big influence in my choosing to complete an Apprenticeship as he said it’s a ‘win-win’, you are getting paid to gain a qualification.

This is my first real job since leaving school and this Apprenticeship interested me due to the variety of the work as it’s in an expansive sector, the different types of machinery.  My day to day role is very varied, anything from preparing a machine to make sure everything is ready for the allocated timeframe you have on the machine to bench fitting and writing up job logs. I enjoy learning about the different types of fitting and learning new techniques which implement fault finding, etc.

My Apprenticeship has certainly already improved my practical skills, building on an understanding of how things are put together and come apart, it’s also increased my life skills and has pushed me out of my comfort zone, talking to new people and building my confidence. I was recently tasked with a Motor Movement project which was made up of many different aspects and took a day and half to complete. I had to work effectively within a team, collecting and delivering the parts we needed and communicating information to a range of people, from Scaffolders who set up the scaffolding, to Welders and Grinders and to speak with the Contractors to show them my understanding of the project; I felt it was very much like a leadership role. I find it helpful to learn about procedures and processes in order to understand and make sure everything was correct and put that into practice. My Apprenticeship has definitely improved my patience and from this project I learned to take time and do the job properly 1st time around as otherwise it just wastes time; I once accidently mounted the box back on upside down and was informed by my experienced colleagues, I was then able to correct the fault.  It was a good learning process and it’s good they made me do it again properly. My Apprenticeship allows me to work with experienced staff there is always an opportunity to learn something every day, plus we have the IPS Trainer’s to also support us. It’s a great opportunity to have Trainers at the workshop to pick their brains, as well as having an experienced colleague who can discuss the job at hand and have a debate about the best way to carry out the job and put the knowledge into practice.

The Apprenticeship is flexible; you work on the job and gain skills at the same time.  Skills I am learning are transferable through IPS and DS Smith. We spent the first year at the IPS Workshop, learning from the experienced Trainers and working on the machinery like the milling machines, to gain the practical ability to a level where we can work competently at the Paper Mill. We now get to implement what we have learned and have an IPS Trainer come into to the Paper Mill and observe our work as well as us visiting the IPS Workshop once a week on day release within a learning and training environment and being able to write up our evidence on what we have learned.

For example, a big project I have just completed will have a detailed writeup and evidence will be used towards my qualification.

I have even helped improve procedures here at DS Smith within my Apprenticeship training as I created number tags for identification for the paper rolls, so now we can keep track and be organised. On a greater scale the motor job I did is an improvement for the Paper Mill as a whole, as it has benefitted the maintenance on pumps and will help us in the future. The good thing about DS Smith is that they want to teach us not only the job, but the procedure itself and we have been learning about strategy tools and how to implement the decision-making tool, factoring costs and time management into what we do and training and support is available in house at DS Smith to learn more on this.

I couldn’t recommend Apprenticeship’s enough; I feel they are underrated, and they need to be promoted more. Especially as coming from a Grammar School, there is lot of pressure put on students to go to University and Apprenticeships are looked on to be the lesser form of gaining education but you do get a qualification without the debt and you can go into different career pathways, some of which are even at Degree level. I think it’s a stable and reliable way of getting into a job, you benefit from getting paid while gaining a qualification and gain work experience to kickstart your career. My long-term goal would be to progress further in Engineering and to specialise in one area. I know I have my employer’s support to progress down a different pathway and maybe even progress towards a Degree or Masters Level Apprenticeship as we have 14 paper mills across Europe and 2 in North America so I can take my skills worldwide.


Simon Jackson- Engineering – Reliability Manager at DS Smith said “Apprenticeship’s are really important for us as a company; they play an important role in helping replacing skills we lose through natural processes, such as retirement. Coming through an Apprenticeship programme myself, I have always held Apprenticeships in high regard.  Apprentices are given the training, education and exposure to our work and business practices and come to us with a skillset gained in the IPS Workshop ready to become fully fledged craftsmen.  Apprentices are an investment for us and it’s a two-way system, they show us their dedication and passion and we show our support in providing training and gaining specialist work experience.”

IPS wish Theo all the best with his continued programme – good luck!

See below a video of Theo last year in the IPS Workshop talking about his milling training.


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