National Apprenticeship Week is here again – a week-long celebration of the career path that more than 850,000 young people have taken up in the UK (according to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills).
With the number of apprentices rising each year, I am really excited to be able to tell my story and hopefully inspire the next wave of applications.
So why be an apprentice? For me, the appeal was earning money while I studied - a luxury that university doesn't always offer. Also, I was able to learn the practical skills I needed to do my job but at the same time I gained important qualifications - during my apprenticeships at Mars I studied for and achieved my Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Engineering. Not to mention the fact that the Mars Petcare Melton Mowbray site - where I would be working - is close to where I live. I wouldn't have to move away from home and give up the chance of earning money for three years.
If you are really passionate about learning practical skills and you are a hands-on person, an apprenticeship scheme is a great choice. Growing up I spent my weekends helping my dad out in our garage. He's a joiner by trade, but we both enjoyed woodwork and our carpentry projects kept us busy and out of my mum's way! I've always been really practical and love working with my hands, so I think a part of me always knew that I would find a career path that allowed me to do this.
Apprentices get such varied experience and learn a range of skills that university graduates would envy. As a maintenance and engineering apprentice at Mars Petcare – manufacturer of Whiskas and Pedigree pet foods - no two days were the same. I spent at least one day a week at college gaining my qualifications and the rest of the time I spent on site in the factory - working on planned maintenance and continuous improvement work as well as supporting any machinery breakdowns. Where Mars stands out for me is of the amount of responsibility they give to their apprentices – from a really early stage I was given my own projects to run and oversee.
Finally, there is massive room for development and growth for apprentices - and this is very true at Mars Petcare. After finishing my scheme I moved on to specialise in electrical engineering and I am now an electrical and control reliability technician on site. My day-to-day role involves planning for both the long-term and short-term electrical and control jobs on our site, with the aim of maintaining and improving the efficiency and reliability of our machines and technology. I am currently implementing a process that will help us to audit and inspect every electrical panel on site. This will help to identify any issues before they occur so we can become more proactive in our maintenance.
I work with a range of fascinating and supportive people who encourage me to fulfil my potential – and with almost as many women as men working on my team, there is great diversity and so many role models to learn from. I’ve been at Mars for nearly five years and at just 24 years of age, I feel as though I have found a career for life at an organisation I’m proud to work for.
☛ Kate Baxter completed the maintenance and engineering apprenticeship scheme at Mars Petcare in Melton Mowbray