Playing a leading role

Published:  06 May, 2015

Three years ago Stephen Thompson embarked on an apprenticeship at William Cook Precision Ltd but already he is running his own section and passing on his knowledge to others. PWE reports.

The 22-year-old has been chosen by the Semta Apprenticeship Service as an ambassador to promote apprenticeships to other young people and businesses.

Stephen is working towards his NVQ, was shortlisted for a national award and is making a great contribution to William Cook’s business at Halfway, Sheffield in the NDT (Non-Destructive Testing) department.

Stephen left Eckington School in Sheffield – with university looking his most likely destination – when someone he knew for many years suggested the vocational route might be a good option and he has never looked back since.

“My dad and lots of my family work at William Cook and to be honest I thought it would be boring”, he said. “Then when I looked into to it, it actually sounded like a great job so I handed my CV in at the gatehouse.”

From there, Stephen underwent assessment alongside other potential candidates, via Semta’s Apprenticeship Service, which helps William Cook with recruitment of apprentices, ongoing training, personal development, functional skills, monitoring and support.

He was taken on as a technical apprentice starting as a moulder/coremaker and had the opportunity to work in all areas of the business. Through his hard work and persistence he gained a role in NDT.

“Had I gone to college or uni I would be in a classroom for so long with lots of course work to do when I got home and with no money” he said.

“At William Cook I have been able to earn while learning on the job. I now have skills, which I am using every day and are something to fall back on in the future.”

Stephen enjoys the responsibility of running his own small section, testing material destined for aerospace, rail, nuclear, military and other high-end engineering customers.

He has his own car, is looking to set up home with his girlfriend and enjoying a lifestyle which many of his school friends can only dream of.

“I have no regrets and would say to anyone considering an apprenticeship to go for it”, he said.

William Cook employs around 700, including 36 apprentices at its four main plants in Sheffield, Leeds and Weardale. Manufacturing steel castings still form the basis of 90% of products, the bulk of which are sophisticated components, assemblies and systems for a huge range of applications – most designed and tested in house.

William Cook Cast Products Group HR manager Cathy MacNamara said: “Stephen has risen to the challenges he has been presented with in the workplace; his maturity and ability combined with the thorough training programme that Semta has facilitated has meant that within a few years of starting his apprenticeship we have been able to give him the responsibility of running his own department.”

Semta’s chief Operating officer, Ann Watson added: “Stephen is a shining example of what an apprentice can bring to a business. He has quickly developed his own career and made a real difference in the workplace.

“We have 100,000 highly-skilled workers due to retire by 2020 and we need to ensure we do not lose the skills with them. Stephen’s story should inspire more young people to consider an apprenticeship and show companies just what an apprentice can achieve with the right training and support.”

For further information about recruiting an apprentice or developing a bespoke apprenticeship programme please email customerservices@semta.org.uk quoting PWE as your source.

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