In 2016, I finally reached my goal of becoming an engineer, and I couldn't have achieved it without my time training as an apprentice. For a hands-on learner like myself, an apprenticeship offers a viable alternative to academic training, where skills can be learned and then put straight into practice. I enjoyed my time at school, but it was as an apprentice that I really started to learn my trade. Plus, when I decided to move on from full-time education, my friends and family were incredibly supportive of my move, which really helped.

I wasn't able to walk straight into an advanced engineering apprenticeship — I needed to complete a traineeship to give me a good grounding in the field first. In April 2014, I joined a training programme through Sembcorp Skills Development Programme (SSDP), and it was there that I picked up the skills and knowledge I needed to begin my apprenticeship.

Through my pre-apprenticeship, I studied at quite a few places, including Middlesbrough College, TTE Technical Training Group, and NETA Training Group. I was able to learn essential skills like operating lathe and milling machines, as well as practicing more advanced jobs like overhauling pumps and valves. Soon, I had earned an NVQ Level 2 in Performance Engineering Operations and was ready to move on.

Next, I was offered a sponsored apprenticeship through SSDP by Chemoxy International, which would allow me to train towards my NVQ Level 3. My time was split between attending Redcar and Cleveland College to cover the theory, and time on-site at Chemoxy to gain practical, on-the-job experience.

The company really supported me through this time, providing great instruction and encouraging me to immerse myself into the role of a mechanical engineer. Days were always interesting: I was able to tackle tasks like safety critical inspections, planned and preventative maintenance, and vessel entries, among many others. Being able to directly experience parts of the job while learning about them allowed me to gain an even greater understanding and prepare me for a future engineering role.

I completed my advanced engineering apprenticeship in September 2016, and was offered a full-time position with Chemoxy International as a mechanical technician. The prospect of securing a job at the end of the scheme really helped to motivate me, and it was an added bonus that I would be able to continue my career with the team who helped me develop my skills. Currently, I am studying for a HNC qualification in mechanical engineering to expand my knowledge in the role.

My apprenticeship really changed my life and allowed me to embark on a rewarding career that might not have been possible purely through academic training. I would recommend this type of training to anyone who prefers learning with their hands and by experience, rather than in a classroom. I believe it's vital that apprenticeships continue to be supported in this country, as they allow young people to get into industries that they really want to train and work in.

To find out more about Chemoxy International and its apprenticeship scheme, click here.