Apprentices are celebrated by Westcountry Fabrication Ltd for National Apprenticeship Week 5th February – 11th February 2024 1

Apprentices are celebrated by Westcountry Fabrication Ltd for National Apprenticeship Week 5th February – 11th February 2024

Westcountry Fabrication Ltd Celebrate Apprentices
Left to right: Jonah Crocker (Fabricator/ Fitter) qualified from his apprenticeship in with Westcountry Fabrication Ltd and City College Plymouth in General Welding in 2023. Jay Hart (Manager) qualified from his apprenticeship in Engineering, Welding and Fabrication in 2008 and now mentors’ apprentices in his role as Manager with Westcountry Fabrication Ltd. Teddy Lovelock (T Level placement student) joined Westcountry Fabrication Ltd in 2023 on placement for his T Level course in Engineering which will be completed in 2024.

What does National Apprenticeship Week mean to Westcountry Fabrication Ltd?

National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) is an opportunity to celebrate apprentices and recognise their achievements. Westcountry Fabrication Ltd is a small business made up of a diverse team, many of which started their career journey on an apprenticeship and so we are acutely aware first hand of the benefits of apprenticeships to individuals, businesses, and the wider community.

A brief history of apprenticeships

The format of apprenticeships has changed over the years, (see here for more) but the core principle of learning ‘skills for life’, directly from employers, remains the same. Today the choice of apprenticeships is vast, and the levels of training available span much greater breadth than ever before. Apprenticeship training is now on offer from level 2 (GCSE or equivalent) up to level 6 and 7 (bachelor’s or master’s degree). With the increasingly competitive graduate employment market and broad concerns over graduates lacking in practical skills, it is easy to see the appeal of an apprenticeship for both individuals and employers. Direct on the job training, a foot in the door to an employer, an income whilst you train and learn, and no student loan to repay.

Apprenticeships with Westcountry Fabrication Ltd

Despite many of our team having completed apprenticeships earlier in their careers, as a young and growing business, we were slow off the mark with taking on an apprentice. For several years we did not feel we had the time or resources to commit to training an apprentice. We needed more highly skilled workers to keep up with demand as the business grew, but we needed them to arrive ready to hit the ground running.

The COVID 19 Pandemic forced us to pause and offered a brief period of breathing space in which we were able to step back and take a longer term view. Considering the ongoing challenges in recruiting the specific skill set we required (highly skilled fabricators are increasingly rare), we made the decision that it was time to invest in an apprentice. At the time, the Government also supported employers in recruiting apprentices as they had temporarily doubled incentive payments as part of a package designed to put skills at the heart of economic recovery. So, in 2021, we recruited our first full time apprentice, Jonah Crocker, with City College Plymouth.

Jonah demonstrated an exceptional work ethic and reliability as well as willingness to learn. Jonah quickly progressed in his skills and knowledge. The assessments at the end of his apprenticeship were reassuringly thorough, covering knowledge, and skills in a range of formats including oral and practical exams as well as tests and coursework. Jonah’s hard work paid off as he successfully passed his apprenticeship in 2023, passing his End Point Assessment with a Merit grade (the highest that can be achieved) and now works for Westcountry Fabrication Ltd as a full time fabricator/ fitter.

Jonah Crocker holding his apprenticeship certificate
Jonah Crocker, Westcountry Fabrication's first apprentice passed with the highest grades possible.

Later in 2023, City College Plymouth contacted us as a T Level student expressed an interest in completing a placement with us. We were not familiar with T levels but we are keen to support students where we can and so we invited the student, Teddy, to see the workshop and meet the team, whilst we learned about T levels and what placements would entail.

Three people stood in front of a folding machine
Jonah Crocker, Jay Hart and Teddy Lovelock stood by our shiny new press brake machine!

What are T Levels?

T Levels are qualifications for 16 to 19 year olds, taken after GCSEs. They are broadly equivalent in size to 3 A levels and focus on technical and vocational skills. They can help students into skilled employment, higher study, or apprenticeships. These pioneering new qualifications have been designed in collaboration with leading employers to provide the skills that businesses require. The subject areas on offer reflect some of the top business growth areas such as digital skills, engineering, and construction.

They differ from apprenticeships as apprentices typically spend 80% of their time ‘on the job’ and 20% of the time in a classroom. Whereas for T level students the split is the other way around, with most of the time in a classroom and a smaller percentage of time on a placement. As a relatively new qualification, there is a drive to raise awareness for T Levels by celebrating them on #T Level Thursday, as part of National Apprenticeship Week.

Why is the industry placement important?

Every T Level student must complete an industry placement that lasts a minimum of 315 hours (approximately 45 days). This is to provide young people the invaluable opportunity to put their learning, knowledge, and skills into practice in a real workplace environment. Industry placements also give employers a unique opportunity to develop new talent and help young people become work ready.

T Level Placement with Westcountry Fabrication Ltd

We proudly welcomed Teddy to the team on placement in November 2023. As part of ‘National Apprenticeship Week’, we are celebrating #TLevelThursday and the first T Level student we’ve hosted on industry placement – well done to Teddy Lovelock. We took some time to ask Teddy about their experience.

Apprentices are celebrated by Westcountry Fabrication Ltd for National Apprenticeship Week 5th February – 11th February 2024 2

Q: How has your T Level been so far?

A. My placement has been amazing, you guys have taught me so much already. It has made it clearer to see what my mock exams will involve. Being here and to see it in the real working environment is just life changing.

Q: What are some of the highlights of the course?

A. In my first year I enjoyed the ‘employer set project’. We had to design a quenching tank. We researched the cost, materials, what would work best and then presented to assessors.

Q: What are some of the highlights of your placement?

A. This year a highlight has been getting to use Autodesk and the plasma cutter on my placement to make a project of my choice. I chose to fabricate a metal picture of a scene from ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas.’

Apprentices are celebrated by Westcountry Fabrication Ltd for National Apprenticeship Week 5th February – 11th February 2024 3
Teddy Lovelock with his fabricated project at Westcountry Fabrication Ltd.

Q: What are you hoping to do once you complete your T Level?

A. I am hoping to go to university to study structural/ civil engineering, possibly with Plymouth University, after taking a gap year. I am planning to get a job in my gap year and help my mum design a website for her shop ‘The Shop on the Corner’ based in Plymouth.

Q: What would you say to others considering a T Level?

A. Enjoy it and take as many opportunities as you can, make the most of it really.

Q: Where can people find out more about T Levels?

A. I attended an open day at City College Plymouth, I would definitely recommend going to college open days.

Apprentices are celebrated by Westcountry Fabrication Ltd for National Apprenticeship Week 5th February – 11th February 2024 4

Thank you, Teddy, for talking with us, and for your ongoing enthusiasm and attention to detail whilst on placement with us. WCF wish you all the best with the rest of your course and future career. Teddy’s T Level course has been delivered by City College Plymouth and the placement with WCF has been facilitated by City College Plymouth and the Government Employer Support Fund:

 The employer support fund provides financial assistance to employers offering high-quality T Level industry placements between 1 April 2023 and 31 March 2024

Westcountry Fabrication Ltd proudly celebrates National Apprenticeship Week.

***Congratulations to our apprentices on your achievements***

#NAW #Apprenticeship #TLevelThursday