Whether you’re just leaving school, finishing college or looking for a change – apprenticeships are a great way to kick-start your career and gain real-world experience.
This National Apprenticeship Week we spoke to Leakage Apprentices Vicki Marchant and James Norman about their experience of life at South East Water, and why they chose to go down the apprenticeship route.
“Give it a go! There’s always someone that’s more than willing to help and it’s not as daunting a challenge as you might initially think.”
Why did you choose an apprenticeship?
Vicki: I decided on an apprenticeship after taking myself back to college to learn a new trade. It appealed to me as I liked the idea of learning while I worked. Originally I wanted to work with Nelectricity, and looked at working on the National Grid. However, due to my family commitments I was unable to do this as it would mean a lot of time away from home. Instead I broadened my search to other apprenticeship roles more localised to me which involved being hands on, and where I could utilise my knowledge gained through college and previous employment.
James: Having spent a number of years working in the retail sector I wanted to take my career in a new direction. A unique part of a South East Water apprenticeship is that you are automatically enrolled in an NVQ Level 3 Water Process Technician qualification. Having made significant progress with it already I feel ready to make the next step once it’s complete. I was also keen for there to be an outdoors aspect to my career which this particular apprenticeship delivers in spades.
What do you like about working for South East Water?
Vicki: I really enjoy working for South East Water as I was made to feel welcome from my very first day and the team I work with are always on hand to help. I like the fact that even though I’m currently training as a Leakage Technician, there are options to change to a different field within the company further down the line.
James: As South East Water is a relatively small company it’s easy to get to know all the various different characters. As an apprentice I’ve also found that managers at all levels have consistently been supportive and encouraging. Additionally, I’m also afforded a great deal of independence which is not always necessarily the case with schemes of a similar nature. After completing my first year whilst still shadowing colleagues I’m now on my own in the big wide world going after leaks!
How easy did you find it to apply for an apprenticeship?
Vicki: The application process was straight forward. After applying online I was asked to attend an Assessment Day at one of the water treatment works with other applicants. Here we learnt about how the company delivers its water services to customers, had a tour around the works and completed our interviews. It was on this day that I knew I wanted to work for South East Water.
James: It was a fairly straight forward process, to begin with I had to answer a number of questions with at least a paragraph explaining why I wanted to apply. Once I’d passed this phase I was then required to complete a basic maths and English test as well as a driving hazard perception exam. Finally I was invited to an interview at Bewl Water Treatment Works which I found to be a very relaxed and fun day. It involved a series of team building games and eventually an interview with a manager.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Vicki: In five years I see myself still working in the Leakage Team but with more experience and knowledge under my belt. I hope to be a valued member of the team. Beyond that there are many possibilities within the company so who knows where my water career will take me!
James: If everything goes well hopefully I will have completed my apprenticeship and become a qualified Leakage Technician. I would also like to make the jump towards becoming part of the Distribution Team as they have a far more hands on role on the water network.
Any top tips for people looking to do an apprenticeship?
Vicki: Apprenticeships aren’t just for school leavers. I was looking for a new career after having my kids and it can be difficult to get back out into the working world. This has been the ideal way to learn something new while earning and also boosting my self-confidence.
James: Give it a go! There’s always someone that’s more than willing to help and it’s not as daunting a challenge as you might initially think.