Paving the way for future talent through apprenticeships

When I joined HSP Valves in Aberdeen a year and a half ago as the new Group Engineering Manager, one of the first things I recognised was the need to develop a robust pipeline of future engineering talent. With our business growing and more hands needed on deck, it made complete sense to build an apprenticeship programme from the ground up. A programme designed to help HSP build its own talent pipeline.

Been there, done that

Based on my own invaluable apprenticeship experience, I strongly believe that the apprenticeship pathway provides uniquely well-rounded training that pure academic routes alone simply can’t match. Having come through a rigorous six-year apprenticeship programme myself from 2003 – 2009, I know first-hand the tremendous benefits of blending hands-on, practical learning, with classroom-based study.

Over 12 years, I worked my way up from apprentice to Mechanical Engineer by gaining deep expertise by actually doing the work, day-in and day-out on-the-job. That real-world immersion, combined with the academic learning, allowed me to build rock-solid skills that have been absolutely pivotal throughout my career.

Real-life, real value

In my experience, there’s no contest when you compare four years of on-the-job apprenticeship training with four years of solely classroom-based university studies. This feels especially true in the energy sector where HSP operates.

To my mind, the apprenticeship model creates individuals who better understand how to apply technical theories and concepts to solve real problems. Typically, they’re more equipped to hit the ground running and have better-tuned technical abilities and a better grasp of how everything integrates together.

Top-down support

It’s precisely the type of exceptional talent HSP needs to sustain our growth and reputation long into the future. That’s why, so shortly after joining HSP I pitched the idea of launching a dedicated four-year Mechanical Technician Apprenticeship Programme to our Managing Director, Derrick Mackenzie. As a former apprentice himself (as he’s insightfully written about before), he immediately recognised the immense value and gave me the greenlight to make it a reality.

Drawing on my own apprenticeship experience, I worked hand-in-hand with the exceptional instructors at PEDL (Peterhead Engineers Development Ltd) to develop a comprehensive Modern Apprenticeship Programme that strikes the perfect balance between classroom learning and practical job training over four years.

In the first year, our two current apprentices – whom we took on last summer after receiving over 70 applications – are based at PEDL’s training centre four days a week. There, they’ve focused on learning core skills such as benchfitting, how to read and understand Imperial and metric dimensions, machining skills like turning and milling, and how to read technical drawings. All geared to them achieving Performing Engineering Operations (PEO) Level 2, and a National Certificate in Engineering.

Then starting in year two, they’ll join us here at HSP full-time while continuing their coursework one day a week to attain their Higher National Certificate (HNC). But the true differentiation happens through our “Real Job” rotations.

Over years two, three and four, we’ll rotate our apprentices through every key business department – Workshop, Engineering, Project Management, Sales and so on. This allows the apprentices to develop a really good understanding of how each part of the business links together to deliver the products, services, and solutions we offer customers.

In parallel, they’ll work hand-in-hand with our experienced Technicians, Engineers, and Leadership to obtain their SVQ Level 3 accreditation through PEDL-guided workplace assessments. So by journey’s end, they’ll have a potent combination of technical certifications and valuable practical experience. The result? They’ll be well-rounded, knowledgeable individuals, able to take on whatever challenges come their way.

Both apprentices are progressing well, and I have no doubt they’ll both develop into highly accomplished people, HSP will need in the years ahead. Our apprentices will be an asset to HSP as we develop and grow as a business.

Looking to the future, the plan is to take on more apprentice cohorts each year based on the needs of the business. In fact, if our current pipeline is any indication, we’ll have no shortage of interest from eager applicants seeking to build lasting careers through HSP’s Modern Apprenticeship programme.

Last word

I’ll be following our apprentices closely as they grow and develop over the next three years. Not just because of how invaluable they’ll be to HSP, but because I know the incredible doors going through the apprenticeship route can open for their personal and professional journeys.

An apprenticeship allowed me to transform my own life, and realise my potential in ways I never could have through classroom learning alone.

Author: client

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