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Rebecca Meaden, Gas Engineer and Plumber
I chose an apprenticeship to change career. I wanted a trade and a bit more control over my working life by going self-employed. I have some health issues so it’s important to be able to fit my work around any medical appointments. I also wanted a practical skill that I could do anytime, anywhere in the world.
Changing career wasn’t an easy decision. I’d been working in the care sector doing drug and alcohol support for about 12 years before becoming a tattoo artist for six years, but I wouldn’t change it for the world now!
I’ve recently finished a four year apprenticeship, which involved two years getting my water qualification and two years getting my gas qualification. I’m now self employed as a plumber and gas engineer. In 10 years I’ll still have those skills, I just have to keep my gas-safe registration up to date.
A typical day could include fitting a boiler, planning and installing the pipework and connecting to radiators, sinks, baths – basically anything that involves water and heating! When you complete a task that you’ve started from scratch and it all works it’s really satisfying. I can go into a house where someone has no water or heating and by the time I’ve finished they have both – job done!
Rebecca did her training through On Site Bristol, which specialises in apprenticeships in construction industry. On Site takes care of training, funding and general support and works with a range of local construction employers offering apprenticeships in bricklaying, carpentry and joinery, electrical, painting and decorating, plastering and plumbing.
Molly: Commercial Apprentice, EDF Energy
I work as a commercial apprentice, which means assisting the commercial manager in running a contract for the construction of a new nuclear power station. A typical day can involve meetings with my team or working on our different software and systems. Although I’m based in the office in Bristol, I sometimes get to go to the construction sites or travel to London or Paris for events and meetings.
In sixth form I did A Levels in Maths, Engineering, Environmental Science and Biology and when I left I knew an apprenticeship would give me a much better opportunity to gain work experience and gain qualifications at degree level. People think apprenticeships are for people who are not good enough to go to university, but it’s really not like that!
I’m one of a group of 12 apprentices and we all support each other and have developed good friendships. I’ve definitely not missed out on the social side of being a full-time student!
Alongside my work I’m studying for an HNC in Construction and the Built Environment, going to college one day a week over two years. When I’ve gained my HNC next year, I’ll go to UWE Bristol (University of the West of England) for one day a week over three years to study for a degree in Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management.
I love the fact that there is so much to learn, it makes each day even more exciting than the last as there are always challenging tasks. It can be a challenge balancing full-time work with study and I do have to give up evenings and weekends, but it’ll all be worth it.
When I complete my apprenticeship I’ll be ahead of many others my age. I’m gaining real life experience on one of the biggest construction projects in Europe and after five years I’ll hopefully have a degree and meet Royal Institute of Charted Surveyors standards. One day I hope to be a commercial manager, managing my own large contracts and passing on my knowledge to current apprentices!