In the final blog in our series for National Apprenticeship Week we hear from Serco Defence who tell us about the apprenticeships in their business. 

Serco Defence is a proud provider of apprenticeships in the UK. In 2020, we supported 22 people to complete an apprenticeship programme ranging from Business Administration to Marine Engineering, despite the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. This year we hope to support even more employees to gain formal qualifications and on-the-job experience.

Apprenticeships can lead to valuable career opportunities. This has been true for many people throughout the Serco Defence team, from Dan Mengham, who joined Serco as an apprentice engineer almost 23 years ago, to Caitlin Fallows who became part of the team in July 2020 as a business administration apprentice. While their stories couldn’t be more different, both Dan and Caitlin have seen their careers flourish as a result of an apprenticeship programme.

After completing his initial apprenticeship at Serco, QHSE Manager Dan has built a successful career while also being focused on continuing his professional development through formal qualifications.

“I believe a good training programme is essential, especially when you’re 16 and don’t know what you want to do. An apprenticeship should give you a good grounding and show you possible opportunities. Throughout my time at Serco I’ve done a massive amount of qualifications, starting with my apprenticeship and NVQ in engineering, and moving on to an ONC and HNC in electronic engineering. In Health and Safety, I’ve done IOSH courses, NEBOSH General and Fire certificates and last year I completed my National Compliance and Risk (NCRQ) Level 6 Diploma in Applied Health and Safety and became a qualified First Aid Instructor.”

Caitlin’s on-the-job experience brought about an opportunity that she would not otherwise have considered. Shortly after starting her apprenticeship with the Serco team in Barrow-in-Furness, Caitlin was asked to interview for a newly vacant Operations Manager role.

“From what the management team had seen of my work, they thought I’d be well suited to the job, so I went for the interview. To be honest, if they hadn’t asked me, I would never have applied for it and didn’t think I would get it. The whole process was a bit of a whirlwind and then to my surprise they offered me the role.”

Apprenticeships are one way to encourage and grow a diverse workforce. While the stereotypical apprentice is someone who has recently left school, this is not the case for all apprentices. Across Serco Defence, we’ve seen apprentices like Rosie Walker join our Cornwall based team at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose as part of their engineering apprenticeship programme and Sam Vella formalise his skills through a Team Leader apprenticeship.

Becoming an engineer was not always part of Rosie’s plan. “I finished a degree in politics at the University of Exeter in Cornwall and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next,” Rosie said. “I’d always loved aviation and mum suggested I have a look at jobs in the local area. I was looking for an entry level position because I didn’t have any experience, so the Serco apprenticeship was perfect.” Now, Rosie’s day job is building main rotor heads for the Royal Navy’s Merlin helicopters.

As an existing employee, apprenticeship programmes have helped Sam gain professional development to support his ambition to advance his career. Sam’s job in Serco has enabled him to complete two apprenticeship programmes in the last three years. “I choose the Business Administration course because it was related to my role, and then I was encouraged to complete the Team Leader programme to help me to take the next step in my career. I’m interested in becoming the Security Guard Supervisor and have started shadowing my manager once a week to learn more about what the job entails.”

Apprenticeships offer clear career progression, especially in highly specialised trades like those found in the maritime industry. In Serco’s Maritime Services team at HMNB Portsmouth, Ryan Wilkie recently landed a permanent role in the Tank Cleaning team after completing a Marine Engineering apprenticeship in November 2020, while Alex Oakley is on track to complete his Able Seaman apprenticeship this year.

With an engineering qualification behind him, Ryan is now planning to start studying for his next step career step.

“My apprenticeship was a brilliant opportunity to learn while I earned. I would like to further my career in Marine Engineering with Serco and will be starting my MCA Approved Engine Course 1 (also known as my second engineer tickets) later this year, Covid-19 permitting. With Serco’s support I then want to work my way up to Chief Engineer.”

As part of his Able Seaman apprenticeship, Alex completed his Efficient Deck Hand (EDH) Certificate of Competency in November 2020 and will complete his full apprenticeship in a few months. “Working alongside the skilled and experienced crews on-board our vessels has been extremely beneficial to my on the job learning,” Alex said. “I have a great opportunity here to gain signatures on completed tasks and further my progress.”

So, there you have it, how an apprenticeship with Serco Defence can help launch diverse career opportunities. If you’re interested in finding out more about apprenticeships at Serco, please visit our website.

To read the other blogs from this National Apprenticeship Week, please read our National Apprenticeship Week 2021 blog.