A panel of people speaking at a national conference to help companies get the most out of apprenticeships included Crown House Technology’s Billy Davies.
The mechanical design engineer, 22, who completed Laing O’Rourke’s apprenticeship+ scheme last September, took part in the Making Apprenticeship Work event, organised for around 90 employers at Birmingham’s International Convention Centre.
With the introduction this year of the new apprenticeship levy, which changes the way apprenticeships are funded, Billy gave the apprentice’s point of view on how best to run training schemes.
He explains: “I’ve been an ambassador for Laing O’Rourke’s apprenticeship+ scheme at previous events where I’m talking to school leavers or GCSE students. But this time I was drawing on my experience to persuade companies of the value of apprenticeships – and what’s the best approach for supporting participants.”
He continues: “One of the questions I was asked was how does a company prevent its apprentices from leaving once they’ve completed their apprenticeship. In my view, it’s about keeping them happy – as you would any employee.
“Don’t just make them someone’s responsibility to look after – the worst thing for a newly qualified apprentice is to feel like they’re just shadowing someone. If you feel you’re being trusted to do something of real value for the company, it’s a good feeling and makes you feel important.”
He adds that Laing O’Rourke’s emphasis on career progression plans – both during and after apprenticeship – is another factor that encourages people to stay with the company. Billy describes the apprenticeship+ scheme as “years ahead of competitors in the construction industry”.
In schools he tells students to bear in mind that going to university is not the only option for them. “I try to get the message across that not everyone enjoys the classroom environment – and, if you’re someone who prefers to experience things first-hand, then an apprenticeship is an alternative. You can learn while you earn.” Billy himself is a great example. After getting 16 GCSEs, he decided against studying A-levels and university and in 2012 began his apprenticeship as a pipe-fitter/welder on the Leadenhall Building, aka ‘the Cheesegrater’, in London.
But after two years, supported by the Laing O’Rourke apprenticeship+ team, he switched to an office-based role as a junior mechanical design engineer. He is now working on the Liverpool Street Crossrail station project where, among other things, he is managing subcontractors. “I am sinking my teeth into the challenge and really enjoying it.”
To cap it all, Billy was a runner up in the Apprentice of the Year category of the TARGETjobs Awards. He says: “I still find that a bit hard to believe. It’s not about me, I’m nothing special – but it’s definitely a recognition of the quality of Laing O’Rourke’s apprenticeship scheme”.