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Apprenticeship Stories: Adam Yates, Balfour Beatty

Adam Yates, in a high-visibility jacket, standing by a van labelled Adam Yates is a draughtsperson at Balfour Beatty and was a finalist for Engineer of the Year. Find out how he got there – and how you can follow in his footsteps.

What work are you doing for your apprenticeship?

I began my apprenticeship working at Rolls Royce as part of the Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions apprentice draughtsperson scheme. I spent 9 months at Rolls Royce earning my NVQ Level 2 and enrolling onto a BTEC in Engineering Manufacture. I then moved to the drawing office at Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions to train as a draughtsperson while I completed my NVQ Level 3 in Engineering Technical Support. This then enabled me to succeed in completing an Advance Engineering Apprenticeship.

My main duties include detailing and drawing structural steelwork for new or existing overhead line towers (pylons). This can be new build, refurbishment or strengthening in order to keep up with current legislation and regulations. On a day-to-day basis I create details for fabrication and drawings for installation along with ordering material and bolts required on site.

On the other hand I also take part in site-based practical work. This includes tower climbing: my experience of tower climbing has involved assessing the towers condition along with writing a report that can be reviewed to see how to tackle any problems that have been highlighted.

When and why did you decide to go into engineering?

I decided I wanted to be a part of an industry that involved solving problems on a large and complex scale including a mix of practical and theory-based work. Engineering was the ideal choice for me as it combines technical and specific engineering knowledge alongside the practical, hands-on approach required to complete a project successfully.

This decision was made after completing my AS levels. I felt sixth form was too broad for me and I wanted to concentrate on a specific subject that I could focus my efforts and specialise in.

Why did you decide an apprenticeship was the best choice?

I chose an apprenticeship due to the “earning and learning” capability it offers you. Having the ability to gain experience, work towards recognised qualifications and have a job all at the same time seemed the ideal employment option.

Choosing an apprenticeship also answered lots of difficult questions when it came to what companies were looking for. I did not want to spend three or four years at university and have a degree in a subject where there was a lack of demand for new people with minimal experience. Joining as an apprentice secured me a position within an industry that had the capability and secure future to develop young people.

What have been the biggest challenges in getting to where you are now?

One of the biggest challenges I have faced to get where I am now is balancing and prioritising all the different tasks I have been set. As the apprenticeship scheme includes academic study, Balfour Beatty contract work, NVQ tasks, external and internal courses I have had to quickly learn to manage and organise my time effectively to ensure all deadlines are met for all of these areas.

Having numerous targets and goals to achieve is difficult at times but by planning ahead and creating a routine all can be achieved with minimal compromises.

Where do you think you’ll be in five years’ time?

In five years time I would like to have fully settled into a wiring engineer role. This role includes managing the stringing of towers on site. This is achieved through the organisation of a team of operatives, writing and implementing method statements alongside managing a budget. Health and Safety is key when performing this role as there are many potential hazards that could cause harm to yourself or others around you on an overhead line site, so as a wiring engineer working at height and with electricity you must ensure the processes and procedures set by the company are followed at all times to reduce the likelihood of an accident occurring.

I enjoy working in a team as much as I enjoy working on my own and with just under ten years experience in the industry by this time I would like to think I could carry out this role effectively.

What achievements are you proudest of?

One of my proudest achievements since I began the apprenticeship scheme is being a finalist in “Apprentice of the Year” in all of the power industry. This was run by The National Skills Council who created the “People in Power” awards. This was an awards ceremony dedicated to the power industry to recognise and applaud individual’s special achievements and contributions to the industry.
The awards included a motivational speech from Sir Clive Woodward OBE and the opportunity to meet new people that work within engineering.

Another proud moment so far in my career was being Lead Draughtsperson on a contract where I was involved from design, drawing, installation and final records. For this project I detailed, ordered and supplied the drawings and material for some replacement steelwork on a 2, 165m river crossing towers. I was then lucky enough to travel to Scotland where it was being installed and help with the installation and advise the operatives on site while answering any of their queries. Once back in the office I then created the final records and issued them to the client and addressed any feedback received to achieve a chain of continual improvement.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

Anyone who is thinking of applying or is already in the early stages of an engineering apprenticeship: I would recommend trying and getting involved with as many things as possible. This could be first aid courses, additional training, software development or site experience. Try to be a part of any opportunities that arise: through this you will meet new people and gain lots of experience.

When you are not busy, try to plan ahead; think about which direction you would like your career to develop. Think where you would like to see yourself in two, five or ten years time and work backwards to the stage you are at currently. You can then ensure you take the correct route that is beneficial to your personal development and the company you work for.

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