National Apprenticeship Week 2019: Dan James07 March 2019

National Apprenticeship Week, 4-8 March, shines a light on future technicians and engineers, and the courses, teachers and employers that prepare them for success Dan James is an electrical engineer apprentice at Siltbuster.

I am an electrical engineer apprentice at Siltbuster. I have been doing it for three years, with one year to go before I am fully qualified.

In terms of what I do, it is a real mix. One day I might be in the warehouse building units, the next I might be out on-site doing maintenance work, putting all of my academic work into practice. I get to learn from more experienced engineers and also ply my trade at the same time. It is a fantastic learning curve.

In terms of my progression, I have to do a certain number of hours in the field, as well as working on specific tasks and projects that get ‘ticked off’ as I go. For example, I recently did a rewire job on some pumps, which was not only good practice, but also something I needed to do as part of my educational journey.

When I am not out on site, or in the yard, I am at college one day a week, studying for my HNC. I have already done two years of this, with the amount of time spent there decreasing as the apprenticeship continues. In my first year, the apprenticeship was much more heavily weighted towards academic work, spending a year in Cwmbran studying at college. This has given, and continues to give, me all of the educational information I need to support my practical work on site. The way we are graded is ‘pass, merit, distinction’, but the better I do, the better the apprenticeship pays, so it is a good incentive to try even harder.

I wanted to get a trade qualification. I could not see myself in a classroom any longer, I just wanted to be hands-on, earning money in the process. An apprenticeship ticked all of these boxes and so far, it has been going really well.

I chose Siltbuster to do my apprenticeship, because I was already working there whilst applying to other apprenticeship roles. It was the variety of work I would be able to do, whilst still learning that was such an attractive proposition. I am actually the first person on this programme, so I am pioneering the way for the other apprentices at Siltbuster, which is a nice responsibility. Since I started, the company has taken on one apprentice each year and is planning to keep this rolling.

Before I started here, my knowledge was limited at best, whereas now I am nearly a qualified electrical engineer. On top of that, and due to the nature of the job, I know more about chemical dosing, as well as building water treatment equipment that serves a specific function on site. It is a great feeling to know that something I built has been successfully implemented on-site, is doing its job for our customers, saving them money, keeping them compliant and helping to protect the environment.

One of my closest friends is now an apprentice at a different company, all down to my recommendation. He knew how much I was enjoying what I was doing, and the fact that I was forging a career for myself, that he decided he wanted to do the same.

The fact that you can learn something from scratch, becoming more qualified and employable every day, seems like an unbeatable deal to me. It is a great feeling and a route that I would recommend to anyone.

I want to continue working at Siltbuster. Certainly for the foreseeable future. The longer I stay, the more rounded my approach and skillset becomes, which sets me up as a top employee in the future. I have so much more to learn and Siltbuster, for me, is the best place to progress and better myself. As a world leader in engineering excellence, which exports to over 32 countries, I can’t imagine a better place to learn my trade.

Dan James

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