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Adam Banks, E.ON

Mature apprentice Adam Banks moved into engineering from the chemical industry and never looked back. He wants to use his experiences to help others that believe they have missed their opportunity to see it’s never to late.

Adam Banks Having spent several years in a couple of different process roles within the chemical industry, Adam found himself needing a new challenge. He decided to undertake a course on electrical installation work in his spare time and also managed to spend some of his days off working for a local electrician.

He quickly found that he enjoyed the variety of work and also that the more he learnt, the more he wanted to learn. Whilst studying at Derby College he first saw an advertisement for E.ON’s Advanced Apprenticeship Scheme. He applied and began his apprenticeship in September 2011.

Working as an E.ON apprentice

“It’s extremely varied which is what I wanted,” he enthuses. “The apprenticeship is made up of time at college studying for my technical certificate, time at E.ON’s Engineering Academy completing courses in various engineering disciplines and time onsite, which for me is working at Ratcliffe power station, the second biggest in the country.

“The time I spend at college and at the Engineering Academy gives me the skills and knowledge I need to carry out my job at the power station and at the power station I get the benefit of one to one training with members of the maintenance team. Many of my colleagues have extensive experience of the power industry and their advice and guidance is invaluable,” he notes.

The Ratcliffe power station is currently undergoing a series of ‘life extension projects’ in order to meet the demands of tougher environmental legislation and to make the station more efficient to combat a tougher economic market. During Adam’s time onsite, he has had the opportunity to get involved in the commissioning and testing of a wide range of new and refurbished machinery and equipment.

Winning awards

He also recently attended a presentation evening at Warwickshire College and was given the prestigious award for Power Industries Outstanding First Year Apprentice 2012, something he’s extremely proud of.

“I was nominated for the award after gaining distinction grades in all modules of the first year of my BTEC in electrical/electronic engineering,” he says. “There was tough competition from apprentices in other industries including nominees from Rolls-Royce and Jaguar Land Rover, which demonstrated the high profile of the awards ceremony.”

What you learn from an apprenticeship

Currently in his second year Adam feels he’s learnt so much from the scheme already.

“The apprenticeship is multi-disciplined, to reflect today’s demands for people to be multi-skilled and adaptable,” he says. “I have gained electrical (controls and instrumentation) and mechanical skills. Examples of these include electric motor maintenance, PLC programming, transmitter repair/calibration and machining using a lathe.

“Along with these skills we have also gained a valuable knowledge of safety practices to ensure that safety is considered in everything we do. These are skills such as rigging and slinging to enable us to safely lift and transport heavy loads, scaffolding so we are able to identify any potential issues with scaffold structures on site and also training through IOSHH so that we have a detailed knowledge of our responsibilities from a health and safety point of view.

“There’s always something new to learn, so if you’re the type of person who enjoys learning and enhancing your skills whilst working [an apprenticeship is] the ideal career choice,” he continues. “It’s a challenging working environment too which I personally enjoy, as there is always a lot to think about in terms of any risks and hazards, and the multitude of jobs that I’ve been exposed to, rather than just learning one specific task.

“It’s also very reassuring to know that the skills and knowledge I am learning at Ratcliffe will be very transferrable to many different industries which give’s me a lot of scope and opportunities for my future career. It is everything I hoped it would be.

Becoming a ‘mature’ apprentice

“I must admit I was slightly nervous about undertaking an apprenticeship as a more ‘mature’ candidate, but I’m delighted to say E.ON have been fantastic and it’s never been an issue. Provided you are motivated, and have the right attitude to learning new skills, then E.ON certainly give you every encouragement and there is no reason you cannot succeed.”

The benefits of IET apprentice membership

Adam joined the IET at the beginning of 2012 through his company.

“After reading lots of fascinating articles both in the magazine and online I decided apply for membership to maximise the benefits. Following on from this I have started attending the East Midlands Region Young Members committee meetings where I have been able to learn and observe how the organisation functions and speak to engineering professionals from a range of different backgrounds and disciplines,” he says.

“Being an IET member gives you the opportunity to gain valuable contacts and information in a range of areas which will ultimately aid my personal development and career progression. These contacts and information can come from within industry and academically based sources giving me the best of both worlds. As an apprentice, membership also means I can gain access to information and guidance on how I wish to develop and progress with my career from people with firsthand knowledge and experience.”

Future plans

Next year Adam starts his HNC in electrical and electronic engineering and an NVQ in power generation engineering. Beyond that he hopes to gain a position within the maintenance team to add further hands-on experience to his understanding. Alongside that he hopes to undertake his HND.

“I realise that I’m very lucky in this respect as E.ON are extremely supportive of individuals who wish to undertake further qualifications after their apprenticeship has finished. Hopefully I will be successful and I would like to gain technician status and progress to becoming a fully qualified, experienced engineer.

“I would like to continue to be involved in the power generation industry as this is an industry that will face a diverse range of challenges over the coming years but has given me an excellent foundation to develop as an engineering apprentice and will continue to do so. I also hope that I can play a part in tackling those challenges to ensure that Ratcliffe continues providing a safe and reliable place of work and keeps the lights on,” he adds.

“I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity by E.ON to undertake an apprenticeship and be exposed to such a diverse range of engineering,” he highlights. “I feel I have been given a second chance and this has certainly inspired me to help others who maybe feel they have missed their opportunity to consider a career in engineering, whether it be because of their age, academic ability or personal circumstances which may have deterred them in the past.

“I hope I am proof that determination and motivation will be rewarded, and you will be guaranteed a successful and gratifying career in engineering,” he concludes.