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James and Bryn

“I began my career nearly 40 years ago as a highways apprentice after seeing an advertisement in the local paper,” says Bryn Patefield, Highways Manager for Warwickshire County Council.

Bryn is one of many managers in Warwickshire who are enabling young people to take on apprenticeships within a team. As well as believing passionately in giving local, young people the opportunity to enter the workplace Bryn is keen to point out the benefits that apprenticeships bring to a business.

“Apprenticeships provide a different solution to a changing recruitment market and we view them positively. Businesses must adapt to succeed in today’s current climate and we feel apprenticeships meet our changing needs.”

The Highways Team at Warwickshire County Council are very busy and look after the highway network within the county. “We undertake many tasks such as repairing and building new bridges, maintaining street lighting, undertaking winter gritting and repairing roads, footways and highway drainage systems. Other aspects of the role include new road adoptions and highway safety inspections and all the legal issues involved highway matters within the county.”

Bryn feels that apprenticeships are the way forward to shape the future workforce. He says, “We need to invest in young people to ensure that we have continuity and we can pass on our knowledge and expertise.”

James Ward is a Highways Maintenance Technical Apprentice and is already six months into his traineeship, which is proving to be a valuable experience. James who is 21 and from Warwick says, “There is good progression and challenges within engineering and I wanted these challenges within my career.”

He adds, “I like apprenticeships and think they are a very good idea, but there are not enough of them to be fair for all the young people who want them. Apprenticeships provide a chance of getting a good qualification as well as working within an organisation and learning and gaining more work-based experience.”

The Highways teams within Warwickshire in his words, ‘ have boundless knowledge and experience ’ but they also welcome a fresh approach from the apprentices and especially their excellent IT skills. The apprentices get all the benefits of established experience from colleagues and other training possibilities. “I have done training on all aspects of highway engineering and other really interesting areas. I’m also doing a BTEC in Civil Engineering within Construction and the Built Environment. This is a day release for one day a week at college and also I am doing an NVQ in Contracting Operations.”

The courses are funded through Warwickshire County Council and are closely monitored by CITB so they are aligned to the needs of the business.

So what advice would Bryn give an employer who is debating whether to take on young people through the apprenticeship route? “Be open and honest with what you want from the apprenticeship, look at the benefits and look to the future.”

“In many ways, it is a fresh approach, we are dealing with young people who have finished school and decided not to go to university. I think apprentices bring a different set of skills to the table and our four apprentices are an asset to us. What we look for in choosing an apprentice is ‘work friendly’ attributes such as numeracy and literacy skills.

“We need young people who are confident with the public and have the ability to grasp technical knowledge. By investing in the young person and looking at the apprenticeship from a long-term perspective and not just the short-term then employers will be rewarded in all aspects of their business. It has really made a difference to how we work, providing a fresh look and insight into how we do things.”

James hits the nail on the head with his views on why apprenticeships are good for our young people. “I would definitely say go for it and apply because they give you the chance to get a foot in the door of an organisation and start learning and doing skills that are applicable to what you want to do now.”