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My arrival into JDR Cable’s apprenticeship scheme was a little unorthodox; I was part way through a mechanical engineering apprenticeship elsewhere when the firm I was working for went out of business. The race was on to find an employer that was prepared to take me on mid-way through. Not only did I find that at JDR, but I also found a place where I would be exposed to a bespoke way of doing things.

Shop floor to factory floor

JDR designs, engineers and manufactures subsea power cables and umbilicals for the offshore energy industry. It provides services to both offshore renewable and oil and gas projects on a global scale.  What that means is the company must operate at maximum efficiency. Each team member needs to have a well-rounded understanding of our in-house capabilities.

To that end, as part of my apprenticeship I rotated through all the departments and spent roughly two months in each – from the shop floor through production, maintenance, testing, and then into office through tendering, project management and design. This holistic approach to learning made a huge difference to me, not only in terms of my education, but also by helping me understand which functions I enjoy working in.

It was during my rotation I realised my love for design engineering. This came as a surprise to me because my background was in maintenance engineering and I’d always thought that I’d continue with it The exposure to different departments has shaped my career for the better, allowing me to pursue a role that I thoroughly enjoy by illuminating where I fit.

Rethinking engineering

One of the challenges faced when recruiting apprentice engineers is that there is still a level of misconception around the different types of engineering. We need to do more to educate potential apprentices that engineering also includes design, estimating or testing. There’s a whole world of engineering roles across different functions and an apprenticeship will let you explore lots of different options. Ultimately, if you can bring value to the company, they will usually try to find something that suits you.

The other benefit of the holistic approach is that it tends to produce apprentices that are more well-rounded long-term employees for the business. For example, when I design something, I will also consider how we’d test and ultimately manufacture that design based on our shop floor capabilities. And, because I’ve worked in those departments, I have great working relationships with those colleagues which makes it easier to collaborate and problem solve.

Map your career

Apprentices are a long-term investment. That’s why I am still here six years later, because once you’ve finished your apprenticeship, you’ll go on to map a new way to progress your career. For me, that meant progressing all the way through from level 3 to level 5 of a mechanical engineering HND, and now I attend university on allocated days to study for a degree. JDR has supported me every step of the way.

If there’s one thing I’d tell someone looking at an apprenticeship is that it is the best of both worlds. You get the same level of education as you would at college or university but are exposed to far more hands-on experience and gain a grasp of the commercial world. And of course you earn while you learn! There are really no downsides.