Thomas, modern apprentice mechanical engineer, NHS Grampian
Hey, I'm Thomas. I’m a modern apprentice mechanical engineer, working for NHS Grampian. I’ve been in the role for about 4 years now.
How did you first hear about the apprenticeship?
I heard about the apprenticeship with the NHS through my mum, who was looking online. Both of us were looking for apprenticeships at the same time. She came to me with the application and said: ‘Fill it in!’
Why did you decide to do this particular apprenticeship?
I chose to do the NHS apprenticeship over the others I was looking at because it seemed the most interesting. It was the only one that no one I knew had done. I had friends who had done apprenticeships as mechanics in other places, but no one had worked for the NHS, so I thought I should see what it’s about.
How has this apprenticeship helped you? How will it benefit your future career goals?
This apprenticeship has really helped me a lot, especially with communication. I have to speak with colleagues in areas all over the NHS. I also need to talk to patients, so you really need to be able to communicate with a diverse range of people.
I now have the knowledge and ability to fix things, like being able to fix a radiator, which I never thought I'd ever be able to do. Now I can go home and fix the radiator or fix my water pressure there too. That’s so handy!
Describe a typical day
A typical day for me starts with the team getting together and discussing the jobs we all have for the day. Depending on what level of apprentice you are, you might be out on a job with a skilled technician or tradesman, so that you can learn. If you’re in year 4 like I am, you might be out on jobs on your own.
We have iPads that are used to distribute our jobs around the team. All the jobs are listed in terms of priority. I’ll look on my iPad and view the top priority job and head off to do that. Throughout the day you refer to that list and work your way through it. Usually there’s plenty of work going!
What are the most important skills for you to do your job well?
Probably communication because you’re constantly going around a big site all day talking to people. Before you even go to a new job, you’ll be on the phone asking the person who requested help to tell you about it, so that you know exactly what to bring. Good communication saves you from having to bring all your heavy tools to every job.
Obviously, your actual engineering knowledge is really important too. Knowing about how to fix boilers and different equipment is useful. That’ll definitely help me in my future career.
The NHS has really helped me develop and become a much more confident person as well, so I speak to everyone now.
How do you organise your time between work and study?
I organise my time between work and study quite easily and I’m supported to do that.
When you first start as an apprentice, you'll go to college full-time for a year to get all your basic studies done. Then you come back to work for a year.
In my second year, I completed Level 3 in mechanical engineering, but I managed to balance work and study quite easily. You develop a lot more knowledge on the job and you don't have much study.
Once you’re in your third year of the apprenticeship, you start your HNC in mechanical engineering, which is the equivalent to the first year of university. For me, that meant I went to college for one day per week. I kept up my work for the Level 3 qualification too. Aside from that, you might have one evening a week where you need to do some extra study.
It doesn’t take as long as you’d think when you first see all the work you have to do.
Is there anything you wish you knew about the apprenticeship before you started it?
I think the only thing I wish I knew before I started the NHS was how much walking I’d have to do! Besides all the walking, I love that it’s a different day every day.
What do you like most about your role?
I would say the fact that it’s rewarding. I’m working in the hospital, so if I fix something, I know I’ve helped people by fixing it. If I’m able to solve a problem with heating in a hospital ward, I know I’m helping patients feel better. It’s such a rewarding part of the job. I’ve never had that kind of experience before.
What parts of your job do you find the most challenging?
The part of the job I find most challenging is usually when I need to do something I’ve never done before. There might be things that colleagues have seen before that I’ve never worked on.
A lot of the repairs or maintenance we have to do are on things that are quite old. Trying to read through information and drawings for the equipment and adapting that to your modern-day knowledge can be quite challenging. That’s actually one of the fun parts too though, since there’s a lot of problem solving involved.
What advice would you give to others thinking about applying for an apprenticeship with the NHS?
One piece of advice for anyone looking to apply to the NHS is don’t hold back or worry. Apply for the NHS, work hard and you’ll get the same qualifications as you do with any other engineering apprenticeship.
I would say do it because it’s worth it.
What are your future career plans?
If I think about it in 5-year blocks. In the next 5 years I’d like to be a shift engineer in the NHS. Shift engineers usually work 3 or 4 shifts a week, morning or night, which is why they get that name. That would be the next step up for me here.
On the other hand, if I was lucky enough, I’d love to get into a supervisor or manager role in the next 5 years. Basically, I want to progress my career. I think it would be great to stay here and build up my knowledge.