Apprenticeships: the trainee experience

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Apprenticeships: the trainee experience

Ross Moloney, CEO of LEEA, hears Lewis Behai, Apprentice of the Year at the LEEA Awards 2021, explain why he chose an apprenticeship.

Why would a young person seeking a career in engineering choose an apprenticeship, such as the new Lifting Equipment Technician scheme, rather than a full-time college based degree or other qualification?

For Lewis Behai, who was awarded Apprentice of the Year at the LEEA Awards 2021 last November, the decision was not immediately obvious. Like many school-leavers, he found the only option being suggested by his teachers was a traditional three or four year Mechanical Engineering degree course. However, the prospect of spending several years, not earning but instead accumulating significant long-term debt, was not entirely attractive. Lewis explored the possibilities of an apprenticeship route, and was offered a position as an apprentice lifting engineer with a company that is now part of the Sunbelt group. Apprenticeship completed, Lewis is now taking up a full time qualified role with the firm.

For Lewis, the apprenticeship route has delivered both work-related and personal benefits.

Firstly, he found that the apprenticeship eased the huge transition from school to work. Students, he notes, are unaccustomed to ‘nine-to-five’ – a factor that employers sometimes forget. On the other hand, an apprenticeship is more than just doing things as demonstrated by a teacher – he found there was a freedom to have his own ideas, to put his own stamp on how things are done, and to come to tasks with a fresh pair of eyes, which really helped develop his personal confidence.

He gives major credit to his managers and colleagues for giving him the support needed, and for the employers ‘putting themselves in the apprentice’s shoes’. Work, he points out, is something you do for a very long time, so it is important to enjoy what you do, and this can only come with the right guidance and support. You can’t really know what career you want if you have never tried it, he says. An apprentice can discover in a relatively short time whether he or she is really heading for the right role or sector – better to change course after a relatively small expenditure of time and money than only discover as an indebted graduate that the ‘real world’ career is not for you.

Lewis lists less tangible gains from his apprenticeship: communication – learning to use social skills in a professional context; confidence and belief in his own abilities; and qualification. By this he means not just formal certificates and classroom-based theory, but all the work-related transferable skills learned on the job: from timekeeping and organisation, taking responsibility, and working with colleagues to the importance of confidentiality in business, and even the management of personal finances.

Lewis is keen to continue learning. The apprenticeship is a journey, not a destination, and in the future he might well aim for a degree-level qualification, albeit not necessarily by the traditional route. And, he hopes, “One day, I will be the one doing the training and giving the support and guidance”.

 

Watch Lewis Behai tell the story of his apprenticeship experience during the LEEA Apprenticeship webinar presentation here: https://leeaint.com/presentation/apprenticeship-webinar-december-2021. For further information on the Lifting Equipment Technician apprenticeship and to sign up, contact ross.moloney@leeaint.com and for more details about the standard visit: www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/apprenticeship-standards/lifting-equipment-technician.

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