My name is James Harrington and I have completed an apprenticeship programme at Nifco UK, Eaglescliffe. I am 25 years old and live in Middlesbrough. The apprenticeship framework I signed up for was to become a polymer technician, which is a level 3 apprenticeship, but I diverted into becoming a process engineer alongside my apprenticeship framework.
I found out about apprenticeships after leaving secondary school, through open days and advertisement online, and have completed two apprenticeships since leaving school. My first apprenticeship was in carpentry and joinery, which is a common apprenticeship to undertake, and the second one is the position I am currently in at Nifco UK.
Background: Minister backs #InspiringApprentices campaign
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Starting an apprenticeship
There was a lot of time and effort taken by my old school staff as they had a dedicated careers department, helping students to plan life after school and direct them into a path to going on to a successful career. There were also visits into the school from past students who have become successful business owners and were taking on apprentices themselves, which was inspiring to see as a young learner.
When joining Nifco, I knew the automotive industry was a fast-paced and highly demanding industry. Personally, I expected the apprenticeship to be fast-paced because of the nature of the industry, but this wasn’t the case. There was a lot of time and focus put on me and my progression through my training, so I was pleasantly surprised. It has definitely lived up to my expectations in terms of contents and building a future career.
My day-to-day activities involve stopping a process that is making plastic components, tool-changing the machine to load a new product in and starting up that process to make a different component. This involves using overhead cranes, operating the machine in a safe working manner, robot-programming to "take off" the component and placing them on to a conveyer belt ready to be packaged and sent.
They can often be assembled at the end of the press with other components made at Nifco. The company prides itself on safe working environments and adhering to the "5S" philosophy – all of which I have been given adequate training to be able to work in. The process engineer role which I am currently in is a challenging but enjoyable role as there is always new challenges with each new product coming in (such as robot-programming, troubleshooting and reporting faults back to my manager).
As an individual, I feel I have overwhelming support from other employees and my manager when partaking in everyday tasks. Also, I think I have gained respect during my time at Nifco. My favourite part of my job role is seeing products come in with no base settings and producing a repeatable process, which makes it ready for mass production. The sense of achievement of watching and setting up new processes is something I am proud of as a young employee.
Apprenticeships vs university
Friends and family who have gone through university rather than apprenticeships seem to struggle to find a job at postgraduate stage. In that way, I feel like I gained an advantage doing an apprenticeship. My family and friends welcomed the idea of doing an apprenticeship as I would be earning and learning at the same time, gaining a career and qualifications at the same time.
I have recently completed my apprenticeship framework and have continued to study further by doing my HND in mechanical engineering at Darlington College. I have plans to carry on and complete my degree in the subject. In 10 years, I will be hoping to become a senior process engineer at the very least, with hopes of one day being the manager of the process engineering team.
I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship after school rather than university, as you get the valued experience alongside qualifications. Speaking closely to friends and family and attending open events and sharing interests is a good way to find an apprenticeship that you can thrive in and enjoy. Nifco is definitely an example of a company that has a very good apprenticeship scheme and can provide healthy careers to apprentices after they have finished the apprenticeship program.
James Harrington completed an apprenticeship program at Nifco UK.. He tells his story as part of the Tes #InspiringApprentices campaign