Post by Brian Kane, Regional Treatment Manager and former apprentice
I started my apprenticeship at Anglian Water in August 1986. To be honest, it wasn’t something I did out of a great love for the water industry or a burning desire to work for the company. The simple fact was that it was a time of high unemployment and I thought it was important that I learn a trade of some sort. Little did I know that this relatively modest aim would lead me through such a massive variety of roles and experiences to the job I have today.
I was interested in learning the electrical trade, and like me, several of my mates took apprenticeships with local companies. What soon became clear to me as we discussed work, was that Anglian Water were doing things a bit differently (even then!) There were so many opportunities, and a real commitment to variety – I was able to do six months’ mechanical engineering training as well as my standard electrical stuff.
But as with any apprenticeship, it wasn’t just the format or the structure that made me realise I’d had a bit of a result. I’ve worked with so many great people in the last 29 years, but there are two that really stand out as having a major influence on me. One was Bob Peggs who was absolutely brilliant at empowering employees and building our confidence. He wasn’t just someone who taught you how to fix things, he also made you think about how you would stop it breaking or failing again and how we could optimize plant to make things run better. He cared about my development as a person, not just as an employee.
The second was Rod Heard. He showed us all the importance of keeping an interest in education and encouraged me to do more training, even after my apprenticeship was complete. Under Rod’s leadership we went through a significant restructure, and he gave me the support I needed to apply for a role as a Process Enhancer. He made me realize what it meant to mentor someone – that management wasn’t just a case of giving someone work, it is a role that gives you real influence over someone’s life, both in and outside of work.
That commitment to supporting me that I found in Bob and Rod is now something that is reflected around the whole business. From your immediate line manager, to your mentor, to the Apprentice Manager in HR, everyone wants you to succeed and will always be there to answer any questions you have – so make sure you ask!
I’ve always found a new opportunity in the company when I’ve most needed it – that’s why I’ve been here for almost 30 years! As an Enhancer I gained experience on a much larger range of assets from analytical instrumentation used on Water Recycling Centres to control the treatment process to 1MW motors on the high-lift pumps at Grafham Water Treatment Works. I also spent a few years in Ops Capital, delivering small projects like installing new pumps sets or control panels, and in Asset Management (my first office based job) I learnt about the importance of procedures and work instructions. After that I became a Maintenance Manager on the Water Recycling side of the business (or sewage as we called it then!)
It was as Maintenance Manager that I had my first experience of managing and mentoring apprentices. I took a lot of pride in that role and found it a huge privilege to be able to pass on some *real* experience – I really have been there and done it as an apprentice, so I know what a challenging time it can be. Often apprentices are young, it’s the first time you’ve had a decent wage, you’re working and learning at college – there are lots of things that can distract you. Some of my apprentices have been easy to manage, and some have been difficult – but I’ve always seen it as my responsibility to keep them on the right path if I can. Without question, one of the worst moments of my career was having to let an apprentice go – we had tried everything we could think of over a number of months but we just couldn’t make it work. I took it very personally at the time, and I still occasionally think about him, but what I’ve realised over the years is that while knowledge and experience can be gained along the way, the attitude you bring with you into an apprenticeship is your biggest asset. If you’re keen to learn, to work hard, to take opportunities and to get along with people, you’ll find the rest falls into place. Many things have changed since I joined (as some of the younger members of my team are keen to point out to me!) but that remains absolutely true to this day.
Interested in our apprenticeships? Take a look at the roles we have currently have available: http://www.anglianwatercareers.co.uk/student/apprentice-trainee-schemes.aspx