My name is Rhys, a first time dad blogging about my adventures and experiences of being a parent. [email protected]

How an apprenticeship unlocked door to a career change in engineering

Tiffany Evans, Openreach

Tiffany Evans was working in a contact centre when she realised she wanted to change careers and become an engineer.

The 27-year-old from Neath wanted to learn new skills to advance her career, however she wasn’t sure if she could financially afford to go back to student life.

After conversations with colleagues in the engineering department of her company Tiffany was made aware that she could pursue a career as a telecoms engineer for Openreach through an apprenticeship: meaning she could develop new skills whilst still earning.

The Welsh Government recently announced a £40m jobs and skills package which will be crucial in incentivising employers to recruit and retain up to 5,000 apprentices, like Tiffany.

Tiffany said: “I knew an apprenticeship would be the right route for me, but I wasn’t sure what the job of an engineer actually involved day-to-day. I had a few conversations with some of the Openreach engineers, as we worked in the same building, and they offered to take me on a trial day so I could see what was involved.

“Seeing the full telecommunications network and the varied work the engineers do meant I could decide if I could see myself doing the job full time. And I could. I really enjoyed it and wanted to learn more, so I started the apprenticeship application process.

After completing online assessments, interviews and attending an assessment day, Tiffany found out she was successful.

She said: “Openreach take on around 3,000 apprentices every year, but it’s still really competitive and I was nervous about what I’d do if I wasn’t successful. I really wanted to seize this opportunity. I found out I’d got a place in August 2018 and started not long after that We spent our time between a training centre near Birmingham and our own local areas. We were put into groups of people from the same area, which was really helpful as we were able to share stories and help each other out. We learned each skill separately: for example, we’d spend a week learning how to work at height at the training centre, then apply that knowledge doing the job at home. This meant we could focus on perfecting each new skill and fully understand how to use it in a real work environment.”

Having completed her apprenticeship last year, Tiffany is now working full time as an Openreach telecoms engineer, putting the skills she learned during her apprenticeship in to practice.

“My day-to-day job now involves me visiting customers and fixing faults or improving their broadband capabilities. It’s like a puzzle, you have to find the fault in miles and miles of cable but that’s what keeps it interesting – no day is the same. If I had to give advice to anyone it would be to follow your gut and ask questions. I’d never have had this opportunity if I had ignored that niggling feeling that told me my old job wasn’t right for me.”

Connie Dixon, Partnership Director for Openreach in Wales, said: “The future success of not only our business but also the Welsh economy depends on our young people getting the appropriate skills, support and training in the workplace.”

“Apprenticeships play a vital role in helping us to meet that goal and is also a fantastic route into the workplace. At Openreach we place a great value on recruiting new apprentices into a wide range of roles and appreciate the significant contribution they bring to the business – in terms of new skills, new experiences and new ideas.”

Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales Ken Skates said: “Tiffany’s story is a perfect example of how an apprenticeship can provide vital experience of an industry while studying.

“Students leaving education this summer will be doing so amid incredibly challenging circumstances. Coronavirus has had a real impact on our economy, and individuals need to be skilled, adaptable and work-ready for what is an extremely competitive jobs market.

“The Welsh Government recently announced a significant £40m support package which will be absolutely essential in helping employers to take on and train new workers, including apprentices and young people.

“Our aim is not only to return to the levels of growth we were seeing before the pandemic, but to build back better as we do so. Apprenticeships are absolutely crucial to this, and I urge students to consider all of the avenues into employment which are available to them.”

The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.