Duncan Bennett, Director of Service at Tunstall Healthcare UK blogs about his experience of starting as an Apprentice Engineer and why it makes a fantastic career choice.

When I left school back in 1973 I embarked on the first steps of a rewarding and varied career – I began my 3 year Apprenticeship at the Post Office Telecommunications (now known as BT) in Telephone Engineering. We are now offering very similar opportunities at Tunstall, recruiting Apprentice Engineers across the UK on a scheme that will help young adults leaving school learn whilst earning, getting the experience and skills needed to become Field Technicians. I thought I would take the chance to tell anyone thinking of applying for an Apprenticeship (or thinking about it for someone else) about my experiences and why it is a fantastic career choice.

The first week of my Apprenticeship involved sitting in a classroom and being told about everything that  Post Office Telecommunications did along with being informed about the structure of the apprenticeship scheme, which involved working in specific departments with 2 six week stints annually at college (known as block release) followed by an exam. The new Apprenticeships will also have this continual learning throughout the scheme – however instead of having to sit in a college for a few weeks we now have e-learning modules that can be completed whilst you are still getting the on-site experience and supported by your mentor.

The modules I covered included maths, principles, telephony and telegraphy – as the Post Office supported all of these functions. You could also do another module – Radio and line transmission which was provided another career path within the post office. I did that module but wasn’t a fan so I dropped it when I could. At the end of the three years I had a recognised qualification in the 3 areas.

Whilst learning, I worked across the areas in the Post Office: planning – working out how much cabling was needed and where in order to supply exchanges, and where to put the manholes to gain access to the cables; Installation of telephones into housing estates, spending time out in the vans installing phones; the telephone exchange itself, this is where I ended up specialising which involved telephone maintenance, learning how the exchange worked  and how to keep it running.

Then you had the overall support desk, where I spent a considerable amount of time, this is where we would take a call, identify where the problem was, log the call and then send it to the relevant teams to get the issues resolved. There were several teams on the road who specialised in different areas under ground repairs, overhead repairs and subs apps the team who visited the house. The secret of a good support desk engineer was identifying the correct diagnosis and sending the call to the right team

What I found was that by doing my Apprenticeship and covering all of these areas, it meant that I learnt how the full organisation worked and I could efficiently work well in each department as I understood the bigger picture. When I got a call at the support desk I would know exactly who to send it to, as I had been working with that team previously so I know first-hand that it was their expertise – it meant that actually, I sometimes had a better understanding of where to allocate tasks to and who to ask about issues than people who had been there much longer but had stayed in one team!

That’s what I took from the Apprenticeship – how good the grounding was, it teaches you not only how to be a good engineer but also a great employee that has a working relationship with all departments. This is the USP for our Tunstall Engineer Apprenticeships – as well as learning the engineering skills out in the field, the successful apprentices will spent time on the support desk, at the call centre handling incoming calls from the service users, in manufacturing so they understand how the equipment is built, in our warehouse and stores so they get knowledge in where the parts are ordered, stored and organised; and sales so they understand the relationships we have with our customers.

I am exciting about building a new generation of service engineers at Tunstall developing skills and knowledge to be able to handle old and new technologies as we develop IP (internet protocol) services so they can grow n as our business grows  – the new generation of engineers will help to develop relationships across all areas of the business.

We are starting here with engineering, but we want to grow these Apprenticeships across Tunstall. We already have fantastic, keen apprentices in HR, finance and Safety, health and environment and are also recruiting for someone in Marketing.

Would I do it again and become an Apprentice if I was leaving school today? The short answer is yes! It gives you fantastic experience, skills and grounding for the future. I left school with no qualifications, and with the Apprenticeship scheme now look at me – Director of Service. I am proud of where I have come, and we want to invest in your future and help you develop and move up the ranks too.

Find out more about apply for an Apprenticeship at Tunstall here.