College of West Anglia boss celebrates National Apprenticeship Week by getting ‘back to the floor’

College of West Anglia apprentice Aaron Davey and head of finance Neil Harries.

College of West Anglia apprentice Aaron Davey and head of finance Neil Harries. - Credit: Archant

The head of finance at the College of West Anglia swapped his suit for overalls and went ‘back to the floor’ in Wisbech to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week.

Neil Harries spent the day working alongside engineering apprentice Aaron Davey, Intermediate Level Apprentice in Improving Operational Performance on Thursday March 10.

Established in 1988, SB Components specialises in the manufacture of aluminium fuel tanks and has now progressed to be one of the industry leaders in bespoke adaptions for commercial vehicles.

In 2012, the company decided to implement a structured apprenticeship programme to invest in skills for the future, alongside investing £60,000 on an aluminium welding training centre specifically for the apprentices to develop their skills on site.

Workshop manager at SB Components, Neil Butterfield, said: “It is positive to know that young people are being given a chance to develop skills and gain a qualification in engineering. This also supports the ongoing development of engineering in the local area.

“The ‘back to the floor’ programme is a good idea because a member of the senior management team comes on site to see the work the apprentice does. They also get the opportunity to test their own skills by “having a go” with the students supervising them.”

Mr Harries was given a guided tour of SB Components by Neil Butterfield and also got to try out welding for himself with the guidance of staff and apprentices.

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He said: “For someone who works on the support side of the college my ‘back to the floor’ visit has been a great opportunity to see what apprenticeships are all about and I’ve really enjoyed the experience.”

‘Back to the floor’ served as an opportunity for staff at the college to see first-hand how the apprenticeships work outside of campus grounds, and has given apprentices like Aaron Davey a chance to offer valuable feedback.

The 16-year-old welding apprentice said: “I like the fact that I am working and producing materials rather than just doing theory work.

“This placement is helping me to develop from an apprentice into a fully-trained engineer and it’s also helping me with other life skills such as managing money, as I am getting a wage. I’m hoping to progress to fabrication next, that’s the aim.”