Local apprentices share their stories ahead of South Bristol Jobs & Apprenticeships Fair 2020

Compiled in partnership with City of Bristol College and Bristol City Council

Former On Site apprentice Harry Payne now works as Gas Supervisor for Bristol City Council

The South Bristol Jobs & Apprenticeships Fair 2020, organised by Karin Smyth MP, City of Bristol College, Bristol City Council and DWP, takes place from 11am-3pm on Thursday 27 February at the South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove, Bristol. It’s free to attend and there’s no need to book – just drop by.

With the event just a couple of weeks away, Karin heard from apprentices across Bristol South about their experiences of apprenticeships. Here’s what they had to say…

Harry Payne, 31, from Bishopsworth – former On Site apprentice, now Gas Supervisor

Harry successfully completed his apprenticeship with Bristol City Council in 2009 and has continued to work for them as a Gas Service/Breakdown Engineer there for the past decade. Harry’s hard work recently paid off with a promotion to Gas Supervisor and he is now responsible for the supervision of 37 engineers. Harry’s role includes the day to day supervision of Gas Engineers, dealing with all aspects of Health and Safety, carrying out regular site visits and ensuring operatives are updated with latest industry legislation.

Harry says: “I haven’t been to an apprenticeship fair before, as they weren’t around when I joined the council, but it sounds like a great idea to give people a better idea of what we do and promote on the job training. I heard about the Council apprenticeship as my dad was an employee of Bristol City Council when I was at school. I wasn’t the most interested in education so an apprenticeship gave me a way of earning the money I wanted, whilst putting me on a route to a trade that would provide a long-term career and actually sparked my interest to learn. 

“One of the best things about getting where I am via the apprenticeship route has been the opportunity to work across multiple areas of the housing and construction sector, from repairing pipes and boilers in the Museum and City Hall, to fitting bathrooms and kitchens within local housing estates. I completed my apprenticeship by progressing to become a Gas Engineer, servicing and repairing Gas appliances.  

“My most recent role has been to take on the day to day supervision of 18 Gas Engineers, covering the north of Bristol. I deal with all aspects of Health & Safety, carry out regular site visits and ensure adherence to latest industry legislation. I would like to continue in this role learning more about the introduction of new green and sustainable energy sources, whilst building my skills and experience in leading a team, with the hope that long term I could work up to a managerial position.”

Jess Perrett, 25, from Knowle – On Site carpentry apprentice working for Bristol City Council

Jess carried out her carpentry apprenticeship with On Site and is now working towards a Higher National Certificate in construction.

She said: “The reason I wanted to do an apprenticeship is because I wasn’t enjoying my A levels and wanted to try something else that’s wasn’t classroom based and a more practical hands on approach. The best thing about doing an apprenticeship is that the knowledge I have gained is not only applicable to my work life but to my home life. With the insight I have gained I have managed to renovate two properties and about to start my third.”

She added: “The most challenging thing about an apprenticeship is your own self confidence and believing in your own ability.”

Aimee Holcombe, 18, from Bishopsworth – Business Administration Apprentice 

Aimee Holcombe didn’t enjoy full-time education but starting her apprenticeship with A & R Services (electrical, building and mechanical contractor based in Ashton) and City of Bristol College, has given her the chance to learn while she earns and says it has been ‘a great experience’ so far. She completed a Level 2 Business Administration apprenticeship in a year – it usually takes two years – and is now working towards her next qualification with a view to becoming a manager in the long run. 

Aimee says: “I have enjoyed learning my subject while putting it into practice and going to college once a week to socialise with people my own age. By doing an apprenticeship, you are putting the skills which you are learning in college into practice on a regular basis. You are also learning how to work within a professional environment and how to get along with all different types of people. I have found my confidence has grown a lot since beginning my apprenticeship as I am dealing with customers regularly and feel confident in what I am speaking with them about.

“Doing an apprenticeship has massively helped in my career as I have created a good professional profile and have a great network of people from within and outside of the business. I have matured a lot since beginning my apprenticeship as I have encountered some tough situations and have been out under a bit of pressure every now and then which has helped me to learn how to deal with my emotions better. I would 100% recommend doing an apprenticeship to anyone, especially through City of Bristol College.” 

Cody James, 22, from Hartcliffe – Accountancy Apprentice  

Aspiring accountant Cody is currently completing an AAT Level 4 apprenticeship with the Healthcare Financial Management Association and City of Bristol College. She had previously completed a Level 2 and Level 3 AAT working as a Finance Officer before progressing onto her current course. And she has twice been nominated for an award – including Apprentice of the Year in the South West Business Awards. 

Cody says: “The benefits of completing an apprenticeship are that, as well as working and studying, you also gain a qualification at the end of it all which is a great achievement. It can help me get other jobs in the future but the biggest benefit of studying this course is the support you receive from your tutors. 

“The accountancy tutors at the College are always happy to help and respond to your queries quickly and efficiently. I chose to study Accountancy as I just love working with numbers, spreadsheets and solving problems.” 

“The support from my workplace is fantastic. They have supported me since I started my apprenticeship and have always made sure I am okay. The college has also given good support. My college assessor would come every 12 weeks for a visit and again, my tutors are great at giving any additional support I needed. 

Sharon Hewitt, from Withywood – Business Administration Apprentice 

Apprenticeships are not just for teenagers but for older learners as well who want to reignite their future career prospect. Sharon Hewitt joined City of Bristol College in 2019 on the Business Administration Level 3 apprenticeship scheme in the hope of helping her in her job progression.
The perfect fit for her without travelling to college ‘for hours on an evening or weekend’.   

She says: “Apprenticeships are a great way to train as you are gaining experience through your job as well as the help from the college. I had a mentor through the course who was absolutely brilliant. She guided me through my course making me feel anything was achievable – she was a great support to me.

“I would definitely recommend the apprenticeship programme and college to anyone who will listen! I haven’t studied for a little while so initially found this quite difficult and more time consuming than I had initially thought by my mentor, Vicki, was absolutely brilliant. I can’t thank her enough for the time and support which she gave me, I definitely would not have been able to do this without her.” 

Sharon is working as an Administrative Assistant at a Bristol South primary school and hopes she can take on more responsibility in her current role and looks to progress to an office manager role. 

She said: “I’m not sure about my long-term goal at the moment but I am thinking I may do an accounting course and hopefully my Level 4 so I can move on to more of a business manager or office manager role before I’m too old and have to retire!”

More information on the South Bristol Jobs & Apprenticeships Fair 2020, here.