During their 40th Anniversary year in 2016 WMH began an investment in the future skills of the company by embarking on an apprenticeship programme to bring new young talent into the business to help rebalance an ageing workforce.
Although the initial intention was to take on one welder/fabrication apprentice, WMH eventually appointed two students from the local community college who showed the right potential for the company.
Since starting work Charlie and Ian have experienced all aspects of manufacturing through a system of mentoring by the experienced engineers. When asked about their experiences to date both were still enthusiastic about their choice of training path and were enjoying the welding side of their work. Despite this there have been several areas that have proved to be less enjoyable, and somewhat repetitive, but never the less useful skills to have learnt such as sanding and cleaning.
Having both come straight from school with no prior engineering experience this year has seen the apprentices gaining the core skills that will set them in good stead for future engineering careers. Ian told us that learning how to read drawings has been the most useful skill he has learnt “because without this knowledge I wouldn’t be able to make anything.”
Ian and Charlie have integrated well with the team at WMH through rotational working with different welder fabricators on a range of different projects. This has helped the apprentices get to know the other engineers and has spread the training responsibility across the team. Welder fabricator Bill has been particularly influential to both Charlie and Ian with his wealth of experience and his approachable teaching manner.
Looking to the future Charlie is unsure of what he would eventually like to be doing but Ian would like to continue on a welder fabrication path, moving into making more complicated fabrications.
For anyone starting an apprenticeship it can seem daunting taking your first steps in the world of work away from the structure of school. Charlie has the following advice “make sure you listen and ask lots of questions” Ian has similar advice “be confident and independent but don’t be afraid to ask for help”
With the success of the first year WMH is further committed to the apprenticeship scheme with the recruitment of two more school leavers, one who will train as an electrical engineer and the other who will learn the intricacies of precision parts manufacturing in the machine shop. Applications have recently closed for both these places.
“We see transferring the skills from our older tradesmen a key part of our long term business plan. Both Charlie and Ian have spent time in the different departments to experience the different field of expertise and allow us to see what they enjoy most and are best at so we can develop them in the best direction. We all spent time as apprentices doing repetitive work as practice makes perfect! Now they have the basic grounding and with a healthy order book going forward we look forward them to taking an increasingly active role in producing quality equipment in the months and years ahead.” Paul Messenger, WMH Operations Manager