I did the Mechanical Apprenticeship here at the RNLI which lasted for four years. For the first three years you go to college one day a week, and then in the final year,you go to work for the full five days.
I left school after GCSEs and went to college to study Public Services. I was looking at either going into the forces or doing an apprenticeship. The opportunity to do this apprenticeship with the RNLI came up, so I went for it, it tied in well as I had also considered joining the Coastguard. I did Resistant Materials at school, which was useful as I had experience using tools and knew some of the basics when I started my apprenticeship.
You get so many opportunities to learn new skills with an RNLI apprenticeship. Through college, we got the NVQ level 2 and 3 in Mechanical Engineering. But through the apprenticeship, I also got my Approved Engine Course qualification (which says you’re competent with engines), RNLI Sea Survival (which says, if anything goes wrong at sea, you’re able to look after yourself and others), and I learnt firefighting as well.
I’d say to anyone thinking about doing an apprenticeship that it’s a great option because you’re learning a trade and developing transferable technical skills, whilst earning a wage. I’ve found you’re in good stead if you do an apprenticeship.
To current apprentices, I’d say to always keep learning no matter what stage you’re at in the apprenticeship, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. The people around you have been doing it a long time, but even they still don’t know everything. So just ask. Don’t just complete the apprenticeship and then stop: if there’s something else you want to learn afterwards, keep going through it and keep learning.
The best thing, for me, about this apprenticeship has been coming into the trade itself. The industry is really interesting; it’s constantly expanding and constantly changing. Everyone I’ve met within the trade has been a great person with a good sense of humour, they’ll take the time to help you but at the same time they’ll have a laugh with you. As an apprentice, you get to experience many different areas of it too. You’ll work with different people and trades, getting to know everyone and the different roles.
The key thing I learnt from my apprenticeship with the RNLI is quality: the RNLI aim for the best standards possible because the boats go out in really difficult conditions so they need to be able to cope. You want to finish the job to your best standard, and people will tell you how you can improve, so you keep learning and keep raising your standards of work.
The RNLI is a great place to do an apprenticeship: there were loads of opportunities for development and I felt supported in both my work and my college work.