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Apprenticeships – the alternative career path



Trescal has recognised the benefit of the development and training of apprentices for many years. Working with partners such as Stegta in Manchester, we provide students with the necessary experience to take the following steps towards a career. The apprenticeship schemes help train a new generation of engineers; whether they stay with or leave the company, an apprentice has the skills they need to progress in their career. So, before we talk some more about what our apprentices can get out of it and why it’s become a more popular option in recent years; 

Here Matt Gypps, UK Technical Director here at Trescal, describes his journey as an apprentice:

“There was only one thing I wanted to do when I left school; learn how to repair electronic equipment. No suitable A-level courses were available at my school (or any other school ) in the 1990s; however, my career advisor “advised” for me to stay on and join the 6th form.

Why? Possibly because he felt I had the potential to go down the A-Level/ University route. Maybe because a good student provides the school with good statistics and, in this day and age, an increase in funding, an apprenticeship certainly wasn’t recommended or fully understood. I’m not sure the advice given was in my best interests.

I found myself looking for an apprenticeship, but due to the delay, all the opportunities with large organisations (BAE, Marconi) had been filled.

However, a local calibration company was late organising interviews that year. I knew nothing about calibration, but I went for the discussion and discovered they also repaired electronic equipment and would pay me to go to college. The rest is history!

  • I undertook a 4-year apprenticeship, studying first-year full-time at a local college but still being paid.
  • College studies continued in years 2-4 on a day release to achieve a BTEC HNC/HND, and internally we were supported by an external training organisation to achieve an NVQ qualification.
  • During the apprenticeship, we worked in all departments, and I was trained not just in calibration but repair of instrumentation by the other engineers.
  • We also were given experience in sales, logistics, administration, and finance and, by the end of the apprenticeship, had a complete understanding of the operation.

In my opinion, this is why many apprentices ended up with management roles and helped drive the business forward. 

Some apprentices did not last. College studies and internal training can be pretty intense, and calibration isn’t suitable for all, but I enjoyed the training and development and continued with IT, Health and Safety, and management courses once the apprenticeship finished.

If you have suitable candidates who are keen to learn, why stop? Ongoing training can be crucial to employee retention and make repetitive but important jobs more rewarding.

I believe apprenticeships are the key to the UK test and measurement industry.

A limited number of metrology-based courses are available in further education, so the training has to be provided within the industry. The tacit knowledge of the current experienced workforce must be passed on before they retire, and apprentices are the ideal channel for this. 

With complementary external training, not only do they gain academic qualifications, but they can bring innovative ideas and a fresh perspective to the business.

During the process, you will develop an apprentice by enhancing their skills and improving their mindset and work ethic. When given the right opportunities, these rounded individuals can drive your business forward.

The key to finding suitable candidates is to advertise the opportunities available and let young people know that there are other options than the 6th form and university route.”

Matt has now been with the company for 32 years, but just because you invest time into training an apprentice, it doesn’t mean they’ll stay on.  Apprentice longevity isn’t guaranteed. Whether an apprentice chooses to stay or leave, you can provide them with a workplace they can thrive in and teach them skills they may not have the opportunity to develop in a traditional academic setting. By investing time into them, you are supporting the industry’s future. 

Over the last decade, apprenticeships in the UK have risen dramatically. Why is this? Well, the success of these schemes can be partially attributed to the “earn while you learn” approach, a particularly attractive concept to anyone wanting to develop their trade, learn new skills, and move into a career. As well as this, the recent introduction of T-Levels allows students going into sectors ranging from engineering and manufacturing to legal and finance to get the best of both worlds, combining work placement with classroom studies to set them up for their future in whichever career they choose. Now, more than ever, people are choosing the practical approach to learning, getting hands-on with their education, and developing the essential skills they need to succeed.

Currently, Trescal also offers non-engineering apprenticeships. Subjects such as Logistics, Customer Services and Operational Management are also available to currently employed staff as a method of development. 

When the current number of students in University studies has risen beyond 2.5 million and continues to rise, it seems like a more significant push on these alternate options for higher education would be more than necessary. And from someone who has obtained a degree in higher education, if these paths had been discussed alongside the route of university when I was in college, I may well have taken a different course myself. Apprenticeship schemes are a valuable alternative to traditional higher education methods for students; but also a valuable resource to businesses looking to grow their workforce with qualified, knowledgeable staff for the future.

In my next article, I will discuss modern apprenticeships, and get some opinions on our current apprentices.

T levels here