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'When I got the apprenticeship I burst into tears - I couldn't be happier'

31st January 2020

Three apprentices have told of how learning on the job with Viridor has had a profound effect on their lives.

She was just walking through the front door of her home in Glasgow’s East End when her phone rang.

It was the call she had been waiting for – Viridor wanted to offer her an apprenticeship at the Glasgow Recycling and Renewable Energy Centre (GRREC).

The good news proved too much to take in.

“I got the phone call to say I had been picked as an apprentice and I remember crying. I was getting home and was just at my front door when I got the call and burst into tears,” said the 19-year-old, kitted out in her bright orange overalls during a break from her shift.

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It was the realisation of a dream which had been brewing for more than a year after Rachael first did a week’s work experience on the Glasgow site – which was still under development at the time – when she was just 15.

Fascinated by the planning, development and engineering that comes with building a facility of the GRREC’s scale, the teenager was instantly hooked.

Rachael’s interest did not end with her shift. She went home and told her friends and family about what she had learned in specific detail, to the point that they ended up pleading with her to shut up and talk about something else.

Her enthusiasm didn’t wane, and in fact rubbed off on the more experienced members of the GRREC assigned to look after her. At the end of the week’s work experience facility bosses invited Rachael back for a second placement.

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But even that wasn’t enough. Getting to see engineering first hand convinced Rachael this was the job for her – and she wanted to get started on her career as soon as possible.

She said: “My interest in engineering started in the second or third year of secondary school, when I was drawn more towards the technical subjects.

“I got the opportunity to do work experience with Viridor and found it really, really interesting. I had never really heard anything about waste management or recycling so I was talking about it at home all the time – it got to the point where my family were telling me to shut up because I was going on about it so much.

“I stayed in contact with people at the centre after I left and when they were looking for a mechanical apprentice it helped me a lot that they already knew who I was when I applied.

“The hardest thing is a lot of people don’t know what they want to do in their careers when they are teenagers – I got quite lucky that I had an interesting work experience and found something that I wanted to do.

“The biggest thing is getting the experience and as many learning opportunities as you can to find what’s best for you.”

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Now in the second year of a four-year apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer, little has changed in Rachael’s approach to her work.

She is one of 18 apprentices who have worked on the GRREC – a plant which also has had six year in industry students on the books.

So it is little surprise that Rachael cannot recommend an apprenticeship with Viridor highly enough to other teenagers who are considering engineering as a career.

She said: “I’m excited to get changed into my overalls in the morning. It’s exciting to have a job that I find so interesting. If there’s a problem we don’t know how to solve I am excited at the prospect of coming up with the answer.

“To be working here full time is amazing. There is so much that goes on, there’s just a buzz around the place.

“A lot of my friends are at uni and are more interested in music or law. I’m the only one of my friends who has broken away from that route. At my age, there aren’t many who can say they are earning the money I am. The beauty of the apprenticeship is I am getting paid to shadow people and learning things in a different way to my friends at uni.

“My family is proud, especially my grandparents. Lots of people have told me that doing the apprenticeship, going to work every day and doing something I love has brought me out of my shell. They say they have noticed a big change in my since I was 15.

“Doing an apprenticeship means I have got the education and the experience, which is something employers are keen to see. I am 19 and I have got two years’ experience on the job, and I have not been confined to just one area either.

“I feel like I’m not a child anymore, I’m an adult. Everyone says I just seem so happy.”

It’s a similar story for young people across Viridor, which currently employs 130 apprentices across all different areas of the company throughout the UK.

February 3 to 7 marks the 13th annual national apprenticeship week in England – a celebration of apprenticeships across the country and a time to recognise those who have made a difference.

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As part of this Viridor wants to promote the success of those apprentices currently on the books, in an attempt to encourage others to embrace the apprenticeship scheme.

Two of those are Will Antrobus, a 20-year-old from Widnes who works with the electrical engineering team at the Runcorn ERFs, and Liam Daly, who is doing a level three mechanical and operations engineering technician role at the Ardley ERF in Oxfordshire.

Will said: “I will be looking for a job when my apprenticeship ends in the spring, but I am maybe looking for one which will allow me to study for a degree at the same time through distance learning and carry my education forward.

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“It’s the kind of opportunity I might not have had without a Viridor apprenticeship.

“I knew a little bit about the company before I joined. I was only 16 at the time. Now I feel like I know it a lot better and I really enjoy the work I am doing and it’s a great company to work for.

“I like the flexibility of the job. I would definitely recommend doing an apprenticeship, especially with Viridor if you are considering engineering as a career.

“It’s a great thing to get into, it’s really interesting and the company is always supportive with training. Whenever I say to my manager ‘this is the training I want to do’, there has never been a problem with applying for it, or the cost, or the amount of time I am away from the plant.

“As a company, the staff and people are all very friendly.”

Liam added: “The good thing about an apprenticeship is you get paid while you learn.

“There is no debt at the end of the course as there would be if you were going to university, so you are learning and you are able to put what you have learned into practice every day at work.

“As an apprentice you are never on your own, you work as part of a team, which is a good to solve problems, you use the group’s knowledge to benefit yourself and learn from others how to solve complex problems and situations at work.”

Viridor offers apprenticeships right across the business in a whole range of skills and functions, from engineering to driving and logistics, and across different business areas, from our energy recovery facilities to central functions throughout the UK.

Applicants don’t need to have previous experience to apply for apprenticeships with Viridor, but we do ask that you have five GCSEs (or equivalent) at grade C/5 or above including maths, English and science.

The company looks for people who demonstrate a positive attitude, who have the willingness to learn and want to contribute with their ideas.

In turn Viridor will provide full support and training for apprentices to become highly successful in during their time with the programme and beyond, providing a line manager and a dedicated mentor, along with the ongoing support of the wider team.

We advertise all of our apprenticeships throughout the year on our latest vacancies page and can only accept applications made online. To be notified when a new opportunity becomes available, please register your details to set up a job alert.

For further information please contact:

pressoffice@pennon-group.co.uk