Ollie Davies and Lewis Jones study Mechanical Engineering, Jemma Morris studies Business Administration. Together they are NERAK’s invincible apprentices.
Ollie Davies is 21 and is in his second year of his 4-year Mechanical Engineering Apprenticeship. Prior to that he did a welding apprenticeship, also with NERAK; he tells us how he feels:
“I was 19 When I started here and I’d decided when I left college that I wanted to do an apprenticeship. I wanted to get a trade behind me so I could always work.”
When I heard of the vacancy at NERAK I was working with my Dad doing carpentry. That set me up with the workplace mindset but I knew I wanted to try additional trades.
Currently, I’m working four days a week with NERAK and spend the 5th day in college from 9 am to 7 pm. I cover subjects like maths, mechanical principles, health and safety, drawings, CAD (computer-aided design) and CNC.
It’s very intensive because you have such a lot of lessons to get through when you’re there. Then there’s the coursework that goes along with it but it’s definitely worth it.
I think that what you learn in college is useful but it’s when you’re learning on the job that you really get to grips with things.
Compared to my friends of the same age, I earn way more and that’s because NERAK pay really well and we get great profit share payments.
In work I always have the support I need from the team and initially there was a bit of a realisation that yes I was in the real world of work but I soon saw I could be just as good friends with adults. I thought kids at school were bad but the adults are worse!
They look after me here, they want me to do well and I want to do well for them. There’s a loyalty that exists. I know how much they are investing in me and I want to make sure I do my best. They say you get out what you put in and it’s a two way street in this respect. The harder I work the more I get out of it and the more proficient an engineer I am for NERAK.
When I got my distinction grade for my first year they gave me tickets to see Wales play rugby which I was chuffed about. I also get a pay rise every 6 months.
I’ve got every incentive to keep pushing forward. I’m given the freedom to learn and I sometimes spend time while at work completing coursework.
My next aim is to work as both a NERAK engineer and as their production supervisor overseeing the on-site engineering.”
Lewis Jones is 17 and in his first year of Mechanical Engineering Level 3. He attends college full time and works for NERAK when he’s not there.
“I was introduced to the CNC machinery at college and found that I enjoyed doing it. I wanted to find an opportunity to earn while I learned and it’s not that easy to come across quality apprenticeship schemes.
When I came for the interview I really didn’t think I would get it but I’m glad to say I did. I’m doing Mechanical Engineering but I want to specialise in tool making and machining.
NERAK has a real family type feel to it. We work hard together every day and I enjoy the banter with everyone and I like the work ethos.
I’ve learnt to work smarter not harder and I enjoy applying a mix of learnt knowledge from college with the practical environment.
NERAK treat you as an adult and it’s been one big high working here.
I was so surprised when I got my profit share payment at Christmas, I couldn’t believe it.
After My Apprenticeship
My goal is to keep working here after my apprenticeship has finished. I’m completely confident it’s a great place to work so I’m looking forward to getting through my 3-year course and I know NERAK will keep me on if I do really well and I’m completely focused on doing my best.”
Business Administration Apprentice
Jemma joined the NERAK apprentice scheme in February 2017 on a five-year course. She is 22 and currently working through Business Administration NVQ Level 4 and loving it.
“I previously worked in promotional sales and knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do as a career. I wanted to find an area of business that gave me a chance to explore what I would really love to do and where my strengths could shine. I wanted to work in an office environment and the administration course covered such a broad range of areas across the business, I knew I could really get to grips with building my career.
“The opportunity to earn while I learned was massive to me and I prepared as much as I possibly could for the interviews. There were two of them, one with the college and one with NERAK.
Both interviews were really rigorous which was tough because I hadn’t done anything like that before but I ploughed on through it and did my best.
We talked about many things; what kind of person I was and my life experience, my attitude to work, why I wanted the role and also how I saw the role developing. Thankfully it worked out well and everyone was really lovely.
“The course covers a very broad spectrum of topics. As an example, some of the things I have been looking at recently are internal auditing, risk assessments, producing bespoke documents and presenting data. They are all linked one way or another and the challenge is to keep looking for how they interact so you see the bigger picture across the business.
“When I first started I found working in the office environment so different. Also, I hadn’t gone to university and it had been quite a while since I had been at college so it was a challenge to be back in a heavy-based learning environment.
“My apprenticeship is a bit different to Ollie and Lewis’. I do all my work based in NERAK and don’t go to the colleague at all. My colleague assessor comes to see me once a month for a review and they give me a workbook to work through. We look at what needs to be completed and we look back to what I’ve achieved the month before. Pete my line manager is involved in the review as well. I have to present evidence-based work which is the practical evidence of what I’m learning and the tasks I undertake within the role and then there is the written coursework side.
The workbook is really helpful and it recommends articles and links for me to research in order to widen my knowledge.
“Pete and I sit down on a daily basis to see how everything is progressing and in addition to that every month we make a plan of what exposure and support I need within the business in order to gather my evidence for the next month’s review.
My Apprenticeship & Job Role
“My role in the business evolves in parallel with the syllabus. It’s a great driver for pushing the parameters of what I am learning. The units that we picked at the start were really well chosen. More often than not, they tie into each other well so I find I am writing my coursework about what I am learning at that point in the course. I’d say usually on a weekly basis I need to spend at least four hours on coursework preparation.
“When I started I actually enrolled on a Level 2 Business Administration course but after the first couple of months, I was put up to level 4 when NERAK recognised I could do much more and that was a real highlight and a big confidence boost.
“I can’t emphasise enough how special doing this apprenticeship has been. It’s really allowed me the chance to build a career, not just a job. Throughout it all, I have become so much more confident in myself compared to when I started. I’ve also had quite a few major life changes in the last year and the behaviours I’ve learnt at NERAK have supported how I have chosen to navigate through these. It’s setting me up for life, not just in work but as a person too.
“I would say to anyone who is wanting to undertake something like this that who you choose as an employer is fundamentally critical to your success. You have to have the support of the management team behind you, putting your learning first. They give you the freedom and flexibility to take your time to grow in the way that suits you best.
I’d also say if you can and you know what you want to do, pick a subject that you know you are going to love, but, if you are unsure pick a really broad topic which will give you a chance to find out what really makes you tick.
“It’s true what they say, the world is your oyster!”