Apprentice Programme

John Bowd

Operation Supervisor Wastewater

I always wanted to become an apprentice as I saw myself in a career using my hands and I wanted to develop with both a mix of practical and college-based training.  With the obvious benefit of getting paid whilst learning my craft, my mother was happy that I was paying my way.

I was always interested as a youngster in dismantling things and then trying to put things back together, normally unsuccessfully.  My initial career choice was to go into carpentry as I had worked with my brother-in-law changing my parents’ roof and fitting kitchens. Woodwork was always a lesson I enjoyed in school.  Everything I enjoyed doing in school or in the evenings had some sort of practical element to it.  An employee from the Steelworks came to one of our open days and showed us the various processes the steel went through and the kind of engineering that needed to be applied to maintain the plant/works. This instigated conversation with my family and it was actually my father who gave me the final push to apply for a Mechanical Apprenticeship at British Steel.  He saw the benefits and career opportunities that the industry offered and after being interviewed and being shown around the steelworks, I immediately accepted.  Being chosen out of hundreds of applicants, this was a feeling of great success.

After leaving High School in 1996 with 6 GCSEs I immediately gained employment in the summer with a local cardboard packaging firm.  This was a great introduction to the world of work before I started my apprenticeship.  On successfully completing my apprenticeship, I became a member of the Operational Team on ETL no3 at British Steel as a multi-skilled operative. Unfortunately, the Steelworks in Ebbw Vale closed in 2001 and I was made redundant.  I saw this as an opportunity to try new things so following this, I trained as a gas fitter and worked locally and in London.  Not long after, an opportunity arose for me to play and coach rugby to children in New Zealand and I couldn’t pass it up.  This was a 2-year contract and but I needed to work alongside it.  Completing my mechanical apprenticeship meant that I had numerous job offers.  UK-based apprenticeships hold fantastic weight on the other side of the world and was able to secure a job as a plumber as this enabled me to work around the rugby contract. On arriving back in the UK at the end of 2004, I started as a Mechanical Fitter in Nash STW on a 3 week contract. This has been the longest 3 weeks of my life…

Being an apprentice allows you to not only learn the basics of the craft, both in the classroom and workshop, but also allows you to tap into some of the fantastic experience that colleagues have gained over 20, 30, 40 years of working in the industry.  It instilled discipline in me, timekeeping, and team-working skills and gave me the confidence of putting what I have learnt in college, into practise once back on-site.  I was also encouraged to become independent, problem solve and communicate with other departments to come to a successful conclusion, whatever task I faced.

Welsh Water is such a varied business, every day is different.  Staff are very humble, with great camaraderie across all areas. Colleagues’ health and safety is driven from the top and no one is expected to carry out any work until all risk assessment criteria is met. Everyone is responsible to ensure the task is completed in the absolute safest way possible. There are unlimited career opportunities for people due to the vast scale of the business, and we are always innovating and evolving, with continuous improvements at the forefront of everything we do.

My tips for success are 1) don’t ever sell yourself short in an interview. You never get a second chance to make a first impression and if you do something like play a sport, instrument, or you’re member of a group, anything that makes you stand out, then let the interviewer know. It can be competitive and if you do something that could get you noticed, let them know. 2) Always stay grounded. You will be learning something new every day and you’ll gain great respect if you show you are engaged in the task at hand. And 3) always ask questions, there is no such thing as a stupid one.  It’s all part of the learning process.

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