National Apprenticeship Week 2023: Skills for a lifetime

Posted on 6 Feb 2023 by Lanna Deamer

Creating a pipeline of skilled talent is a top priority for Norgren, which for more than two decades, has invested time and resources into its growing apprenticeship programme.

Christian Newey, Engineering Technician Apprentice

Twenty-one-year-old Christian Newey, currently in the final year of his four-year Engineering Technician apprenticeship at Norgren’s Fradley site, is an example of how a fulfilling engineering apprenticeship can lay the foundations for future career success.

Named ‘Learner of the Year 2022’ in the Engineering & Manufacturing Advanced category at the 2022 In-Comm awards, Christian is an advocate for apprenticeships as a valuable route to open up an exciting career that unlocks a wide range of engineering skills that will stand the test of time.

As part of the 2023 National Apprenticeship Week, Christian offers his insight on his career to date.

What led you to consider an apprenticeship in engineering?

My grandfather was an engineer which helped to expose me to the world of making things from an early age. I did well in science and maths at school and soon realised that engineering was something that appealed to me.

I believe that engineering will always be relevant to the world around us. Everything must be made so engineering offers a career for life. I was keen to obtain core skills at an early stage, and love restoring classic cars as a hobby, so I felt that the practical ‘hands-on’ learning an apprenticeship provides was ideal. I wanted to work my way up and progress within the industry. Luckily, I have had such an opportunity with Norgren.

What has your apprenticeship experience involved?

The best thing about the Norgren apprenticeship experience was the exposure to multiple areas of the business from an early stage. As apprentices we were encouraged to investigate which areas appealed most and which best suited our areas of interest as well as the business need.

I uncovered an interest in the tool room a part of the production engineering department. Being in such a stimulating and challenging environment has been so rewarding and I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to focus my apprenticeship here.

What’s been a highlight of your apprenticeship so far?

Early in my apprenticeship, I had the opportunity to work on a vital project to help upscale the production volume of several components used in much needed ventilators required at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. We had to duplicate tooling so that the company could make more ventilators to be used in the healthcare system. Whilst friends and family were furloughed, I felt proud to have continued working and helping on a very important project that made a difference to so many in the real world.

With the theme of this year’s #NAW2023 being ‘skills for life’, what are the types of skills you have developed?

Engineering covers such a wide spectrum and requires many skills, and no two days are the same in the job. As well as taking on board a range of technical skills, I have also learnt about team structures and the benefits of working collaboratively to solve problems or create innovative ideas.

I would say that the key skill I have picked up is the ability to problem solve – both how to think around issues and then produce a practical solution that works.

I have also been lucky to have been mentored by some vastly experienced staff who have been happy to pass on the skills they have developed over decades. This is important so that old skills are not lost when staff leave, and it is a terrific way of protecting knowledge and having it passed on to new generations. In return, younger, more digitally savvy people, can share their expertise and the mix of ages, experiences and skills is a productive one.

What needs to be done to encourage more young people to consider an engineering apprenticeship?

It starts at schools. More emphasis needs to be given to promoting the career opportunities that an engineering apprenticeship can provide. The old myth of working with oily rags is just that – a myth. Young people should be inspired to see the broad world of engineering as stimulating, rewarding and highly skilled.

In my role as a STEM ambassador, I regularly attend events where I share my experience with young people considering an apprenticeship. I actively encourage them to do their research and find out what is available and how they can seize the great opportunities that exist. I also know that Norgren collaborates with local schools and colleges to promote the company’s apprenticeship programme, and this is a great initiative.

What are your future ambitions?

I would like to be in a position one day to manage the toolroom where I currently work. To supplement the practical and technical skills I have learnt to date, I now intend to embark on further education and will be starting an engineering degree course soon. Having the two strands: real world practical experience and academic learning, will, I believe, provide me with a solid foundation and the right mix of skills as I look to the future and decide where I want to take my career next.

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