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From Apprentice To Managing 200 Plus Employees, GE Aerospace’s Angela Davies Explains Why An Apprenticeship Is A Genius Decision

As students across Wales receive A-Level and GSCE results, GE Aerospace’s Angela Davies is encouraging people to consider an apprenticeship to get ahead in their careers.

This summer, Angela will celebrate a career that spans 35 years at GE Aerospace Wales the world-leading maintenance, repair and overhaul facility for commercial jet engines, based in Nantgarw.

She started out as an apprentice, aged 17, at British Airways. In 1991, the business was acquired by GE Aerospace in 1991 and Angela is now the Supply Chain Leader, responsible for materials, warehouses, stores, logistics and customs compliance and she manages more than 200 members of staff.

As a leader, apprentice mentor and former apprentice herself, she is eager to encourage young people to weigh up the different options available when leaving education. And she is also keen to spell out the value of apprenticeships for those looking to switch careers later in life.

Rewind to 1987 and Angela can remember the exact date she started her apprenticeship. Walking through the doors Sept 3 was just the beginning of an incredible career which has seen her climb the ladder and even travel the world, to destinations such as New York, Korea and Japan.

From apprentice to Business leader

Angela said: “I finished school at 16 and went to my local college to do a BTEC Diploma. I’d been there for a year, and decided I wanted the experience and hands on training. I was offered a one-year apprenticeship which meant I was able to combine work experience with education, as well as getting paid to train. By the time, I was 18, I was fully employed.”

Between 20 and 25 apprentices are currently taken on each year at GE and are a mix of business apprentices and mechanical engineering apprentices. Angela is confident that this number will increase post-Covid.

“We offer a three-year programme and if apprentices hit expectations and show initiative, the chance of securing full time employment is incredibly high. They receive mentoring and are measured on their progress as they rotate through different areas of the business.

“I currently have two business apprentices who will gain practical experience across different areas of the business including supply chain, health and safety, quality, planning, or finance. We measure them on each rotation because ultimately, we are nurturing future talent pipeline when they complete their apprenticeship.

“The rotation model is also hugely beneficial for the apprentices themselves, as it gives them an insight into different career paths. They are effectively trying out different parts of the business and deciding which one suits them, which is exactly what I did when I started.”

Meanwhile, mechanical engineering apprentices spend their first year gaining hands-on training at the local college before working predominantly on the shop floor in years two and three, under the watchful eye of skilled mechanics.

With fixed-term and permanent positions available, there are plenty of opportunities for keen apprentices. And while many arrive at GE after leaving education, there is no age restriction.

“We often have people looking to switch careers in later life. For example, we have one male who joined as an apprentice after leaving the army, and we have females joining after having a child.  It provides a good balance within the cohort.”

Apprentices have a huge advantage

When it comes to recruiting, Angela says her preference is always to take on an apprentice.

“Why wouldn’t we take the individuals we’ve trained, mentored and nurtured? We know that our apprentices understand the business because they’ve already been working with us for three years. They understand our values and what’s expected of them.

“When I employ someone, I want to be employing that person for the long time – I don’t want them to fail at the 3-month probation. So, if they meet the criteria I would go with the person that’s tried and tested, that I know has a good work ethic and has been moulded to suit our business expectations. Apprentices have a huge edge on the competition if they are eager to learn on site.”

4 of GE’s senior leadership team at Nantgarw started as apprentices, with a further 12 + middle management leaders also following the same career route.

Perceptions of apprenticeships

According to Angela, apprenticeships have transformed over the last 35 years.

“When I started out on my apprenticeship, I was lucky that I joined a big company with a well-structured programme. But some people still misjudge an apprenticeship as cheap labour. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Apprenticeships offer people experience within a working environment while gaining the learning and qualifications they need to succeed. For me, that’s priceless.

“For any parent or guardian who has outdated views on apprenticeships, I would really encourage them to take a look at what is available. In the past, it was all about getting your degree before securing a job. Nowadays you can get an apprenticeship, land a full-time job, and the business could then sponsor you to do a degree through a higher apprenticeship especially if it adds value to your specific role.

Looking back over her successful career, she says.

“I am a very driven person but if someone had said when I was a 17-year-old apprentice that I’d now be a senior leader, managing 200 employees, I wouldn’t have believed them. But I am an example of what can be achieved through an apprenticeship – whether you’re leaving school, looking to get back into work or fancy a career change.”

GE Aerospace Wales will open its apprenticeship programme for application in October 2023 and all information is available online at gecareers.com

To explore what apprenticeship opportunities are currently available in Wales, visit the Apprenticeship Vacancy Service.

Apprenticeships are part of the Welsh Government’s Young Person’s Guarantee which promises everyone under 25 in Wales the offer of support to build a positive future for themselves.

 

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

For more information about becoming an apprentice, visit www.gov.wales/apprenticeshipswales or call 0800 028 4844.
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Posted in Apprenticeships, News