Celebrating National Apprenticeship Week
Meet our apprentices and hear how our CEO, directors and other team members have benefitted from taking the apprenticeship route…
National Apprenticeship Week celebrates the value, benefits and opportunities that apprenticeships provide to not only the individual but also the business and wider community.
As a full turnkey fit-out company, here at COEL, we offer a range of trade apprenticeships (Plumbing, Electrical and Construction) through to Degree Apprenticeships in Construction Quantity Surveying and professional qualifications including AAT accountancy.
Over the past 20 years, COEL has trained over 20 apprentices, and we’re proud that many of our team, including several directors, started their careers as apprentices.
Having recruited new apprentices to COEL whilst also supporting our current team with apprenticeship-based learning opportunities to enhance their careers, we’ll introduce you to our team members benefiting from apprenticeship routes. We’ll also hear from our directors, and how they developed in their careers from an apprentice to their senior management roles.
Meet our apprentices
Reece Flatts, joined COEL as an apprentice last year. Reece takes us through his experience as a Level 3 Electrical Installations Apprentice and his Apprenticeship journey so far…
I really enjoy the practical aspects of the role. Every day I assist the electrical team with a range of maintenance & installation works on all types of electrical equipment & systems, which might include anything from testing and fault-finding malfunctioning equipment, through to repair of the equipment and replacing defective parts should it be deemed necessary.
Energy efficiency is starting to be a big thing with our clients, so installing replacement LED lighting makes up a good proportion of the works we carry out.
Challenges of the role
I find it challenging when I have to find problems that aren’t physically visible, but that’s also my favourite thing about the job. The joy you get when you find a solution is amazing!
Favourite things about his job
I actually chose an apprenticeship because I didn’t really enjoy secondary school and was keen to leave school rather than going to sixth form. I wanted to be in an active environment and I chose to be an electrician because I’ve always liked how they can fix problems that no one else can.
“I really enjoy working alongside and learning from the wider team on-site. COEL are giving me all the training I need to continue with my journey in becoming an electrician, they’ve supported me loads throughout the time I’ve been here.”
Not only has Reece made an increasing impact as part of the COEL Maintenance and Electrical Team, he also had the opportunity to present his experience at the Form the Future CIC Annual Conference.
Liam Gardiner has been an apprentice as an Air Conditioning Engineer with COEL’s Mechanical and Electrical team for almost two years now, and is due to finish this summer. Liam takes us through his experience and advocates that apprenticeships give you more of an insight into what working in your intended trade will be like in reality.
Liam’s typical day involves waking at 05.30 to be ready and kitted up on site by 07.30
He works a full day until 4pm when he finishes but, only after he has taken time to go through his schedule for the next day with his manager
Challenges of the role
Asking him about the challenges of the role, he said,
“ I think at first, I struggled but the more I was shown, the more I trusted my own knowledge and as a result my confidence definitely grew and now, I really enjoy what I’m doing day in day out.”
Another thing Liam found difficult was learning how to take responsibility for his time management and adjusting from a normal day at college where you are in a system that guides you through the timetable.
Favourite things about his job
Liam really enjoys the independence he gets with his apprenticeship and loves being on site with his line-manager Ray and the rest of the team. He appreciates being part of the bigger team at COEL, as it has helped improve his people skills and it offers more job opportunities beyond his current role. He says one of the best things about his role “Taking control of my future.”
Before working with COEL, Liam regularly checked the find an apprenticeship website as they have good apprenticeship schemes and advice for anyone thinking of applying. He recommends apprenticeships for the learn-on-the-job aspect finding it a more rewarding way of learning than going to college.
Liam wasn’t always sure about what he wanted to do and having started by doing a year’s construction course at college, he thought at that stage he would go into plastering. Having got some experience under his belt as an air conditioning engineer, he feels he has fallen on his feet both in learning some essential life skills and enjoying the process.
Byron Willey, now one of our Heating and Plumbing Engineers, also started his apprenticeship with us in 2014. Byron tells us why he chose to learn as your earn:
“I choose to do an apprenticeship so I could gain the knowledge and experience whilst being mentored by someone with the experience. It’s invaluable to work closely with experts and learn the correct ways to do things, and also to get paid whilst I learned.”
Alternative to traditional apprenticeships
As an alternative to an apprenticeship route, we also work with our young professionals to support career advancement and accessing and developing specialist skills. Matt Southgate takes us through how he is benefiting from completing a BSC in Quantity Surveying alongside working at COEL:
“I first started working for a drainage/plumbing company, where I learnt the ropes in an estimating/surveying role. I’ve always favoured the idea of a construction related role from a main contractor and/or developer point of view.
Maths was a strong point at school (seems like a lifetime ago now!) therefore, it made sense to combine the maths and keen interest in the construction industry. I debated going to university full time for a while, but after a few discussions with other qualified surveyors, the overall opinion was that 90% of the degree isn’t applied within a working environment.
Essentially, a lot of the key skills learnt had been through actual work experience. This was the driving factor in choosing to pursue a working career in surveying, as I felt my knowledge and skills would progress far more than doing a full-time course. Furthermore, I still decided I would like to obtain the degree qualification as there is always room to learn more!”
Firstly, some form of caffeine is the only way to start a typical day! Without writing a thousand words to explain a “typical day” at COEL, I’ll try and keep it short! The best way to describe would be, number crunching, negotiations, reducing the “risks” and capitalising on the “opportunities”!
Challenges of the role
Not dreaming about spreadsheets on the daily! Lol. In all seriousness, no day is quite the same, challenges are faced every day, but that’s what makes this role so interesting! However, If I was going to put it down to one item, it would be weighing up potential cost risks, compared to ensuring certain actions don’t have an implication on project progress.
Favourite things about the job
Every day is different. Seeing a project through from start to finish, whilst maintaining a desirable profit margin. Getting into the deep realms of number crunching! Lol.
How you’ve been supported at COEL?
The entire commercial team have been superb, regular 1-1 meetings, group meetings and general assistance wherever required! I’d also expand this to the whole business; everyone will make time to answer a question, regardless of if it seems a silly question
Dean Powell, our Group MEP Director, started out as an apprentice. Dean currently has Reece and three other apprentices working at COEL as an Air Conditioning engineer, and Heating and Ventilation engineers.
Dean takes us through his own career highlights and where it all began…
“I started my career as an apprentice Heating and Ventilation Engineer for a Cambridge-based company called EV Bloy’s. My role as an apprentice in the early days included tasks such as painting pipe and fixing brackets (with a lot of watching and learning). Back then the apprenticeship scheme was called the Youth Training Scheme (YTS) which involved day release at Cambridge regional college.
As I progressed through my apprenticeship I learnt Welding, Pipe Fitting and Plumbing and after 4 years I gained City and Guilds qualifications. To this day I am a big advocate of apprenticeship schemes and I take great pleasure in seeing/helping the young apprentices develop and learn their trade at COEL.”
Dean isn’t the only Director here at COEL who started out as an apprentice. Jerry Overhill, our Operations Director, takes us through his career journey…
“I was at grammar school in Cambridge, about to start my A Levels and go to university as had my two older brothers. I enjoyed carpentry and wanted to work rather than academic studies, so I made a big decision to leave school and look for an apprenticeship.
My parents were shocked but ultimately supported me. I wrote to every builder in Cambridge but eventually joined Sindalls who ran a training school for carpenter/ joiners and took on a dozen 16 year-olds each year, working in the joiners shop, with block release to college.
I eventually wanted to work on site rather than in a joinery shop, so my first job at 17 was on a huge project in Brixton where I had to find my own digs – really thrown in the deep end!
When I passed my City and Guilds and the Advanced certificate, I went self- employed. And here I am now – it opened up so many opportunities for me but I had to work very hard , which I embraced.
Neither of my brothers really knew what their future careers would be and drifted from job to job despite being gifted academically. I have ultimately been much more successful.
Having the drive to do what you want and committing to it is so important.”
Interested in finding out more?
Our apprenticeship opportunities are run in conjunction with several training partners including Cambridge Regional College (CRC) as well as local Universities. If you’d like to enquire into Apprenticeship opportunities at COEL, please email firstname.lastname@example.org