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‘My apprenticeship allowed me to follow my childhood dream and help the fight against climate change’

Harley Durak - Jones Bros apprentice

A 19-year-old apprentice from Bala has credited his apprenticeship for allowing him to pursue his dream career in engineering while helping to have a positive impact on the environment.

Harley Durak, a Civil Engineering higher apprentice at Welsh Engineering company Jones Bros Civil Engineering UK, is now encouraging other school leavers unsure on their next steps to explore the many options available to them, especially apprenticeships.

Speaking about his experience, Harley said: “I’ve always been fascinated with renewable energy and the engineering industry, which is why from an early age I found weekend work on local hydroelectricity schemes.

“I knew throughout my A-Levels that it was the path I wanted to follow and had always expected to go to university to gain the necessary qualifications to enter the field. This was until Jones Bros came into our school to discuss job opportunities for school leavers and opened my eyes to the world of apprenticeships.”

After the chance meeting with the civil engineering company, Harley found himself questioning whether university was the right pathway for him.

He continued: “I hadn’t considered an apprenticeship as I didn’t know if that route would allow me to gain the qualifications I needed to progress into a high-level role within the industry. But once I discovered that I could gain a degree-level qualification, as well as hands-on experience, I knew it was the right option for me.”

After contemplating the many pathways available to him after education, Harley decided to apply for the Jones Bros apprenticeship scheme and has not looked back.

He added: “My apprenticeship has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m nine months in and have learnt so many different skills. I started with a three-month intensive college placement, before I was able to quickly test my knowledge and put the theory I learnt into practice in a real-life working environment.

“I was able to see how much I had taken in through the combination of classroom and practical learning, which has been hugely beneficial for my confidence. It also helped me see a real purpose in everything I’m learning when I apply it to my day-to-day role on site.”

Not only has Harley gained technical skills through his work on renewable energy projects, but he has also made a new group of supportive friends too.

He continued: “There are ten of us in my apprenticeship cohort who have been together since day one, we all have such similar interests and are already like one big family. It’s been invaluable having their support throughout my apprenticeship journey so far; it can be really daunting going from school into full time work, but we know that we have each other to call if we ever had any questions or need support.”

Harley has also found that many senior managers at the company started their careers on the apprenticeship scheme at Jones Bros.

He said: “Most of the people I work with started off as an apprentice like me, which has meant they have been hugely supportive of my learning and growth as they were once in my shoes. It helps to see the clear career progression within the company too.

“Learning while working has not only been really important for my technical skills, but I’ve also gained so much knowledge about teamwork, as to be successful in my role you have to be able to communicate effectively.”

Harley has some important advice for anyone thinking of doing an apprenticeship.

He said: “I’d encourage anyone to jump at the opportunity of becoming an apprentice. At the end of mine, I’ll have four years’ experience which will help me to stand out against many other people in the industry at my age.

“Being able to earn a living while learning has been a big benefit to me, as I’ve been able to support myself throughout the process. There is such a demand for practical knowledge within the engineering industry, and I’ve gained that in bucket loads all while being financially independent.”

Moving forward, Harley’s ambitions go beyond the completion of his higher apprenticeship.

He continued: “Once I’ve completed the higher apprenticeship, my aim is to progress to degree level so that I can get the highest qualification possible for myself. I want to help have a positive impact on my corner of the world, and I feel passionately about the increase in renewable energy within the UK and further afield.

“My apprenticeship has been the best decision I have ever made, and I would seriously encourage anyone getting their results this summer to also choose one.”

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Gaining skills and qualifications are vital to diversifying our future workforce and reaching our ambitious vision for Wales, where everyone is given the opportunity to reach their full potential. Apprenticeships are a genius decision for young people who want a proven route into employment that provides the opportunity to learn from professionals in their industry, all while earning a wage.

“I wish Harley the very best in his career and encourage others to explore all the many options available to them through the Welsh Government’s Young Person’s Guarantee, including apprenticeships.”