Apprenticeship Week 2019 is on its way and to mark the occasion Unipres UK is shining the spotlight on some of our apprentices past and present – this time, it’s Apprentice Coordinator Rob Dodds…

How old were you when you started your apprenticeship and what were you doing prior to it?

I started my apprenticeship at 16 after leaving school. I wasn’t very fond of school, but I got the grades that needed to get an apprenticeship. The biggest influence on choosing that was my parents, they steered me towards engineering and I’ve since learned that parents play a big role in helping young people make their first career choices.

Why did you want to get involved in manufacturing?

The reason I chose engineering was that I liked to fix my bike and use my hands. I didn’t enjoy academic subjects, but loved tinkering with the bike or making a “bogey” for me and friends to play with. I always wanted to help my dad fix the car and it was clear that it was definitely more beneficial for me to work with my hands than do anything else.

What made Unipresstand out against other manufacturers?

With my former employers, I’d moved more from the manufacturing side of things into the training and teaching operation. I was fortunate to get a job at Unipres and they helped push me forward to gain the qualifications I needed to teach young people for the future.

Can you tell us what your typical work day at Unipres involves?

A typical day is dealing with the unexpected. Young people can be very unpredictable. We plan things very well, but a lot of elements to my day come out of nowhere and you have to think on your feet and be quite reactive, which is great as no two days are the same and everything can change in a minute.

What skills have you learned since joining the company?

Lots of the skills I have learned relate to dealing with people in and outside the manufacturing industry. I was well skilled in the engineering and manufacturing process, but had to hone my people skills -how people learn, how they actually benefit from different forms of engineering education and also how to get the best out of young people.

What has been your proudest career moment so far?

One of the best things for me is helping a young person realise their potential and set them on the path to a successful career at Unipres. We teach them the fundamentals and then I get to see them move on through the company, buy their first car, get their first house–it’s incredibly satisfying.

What are your plans for the next five years? 

I’d like to help take Unipres even further and get more young people coming through our doors and take things to the next level. Everyone who comes out of Unipres is trained to an incredibly high level, but we can’t rest on our laurels, we must continue to get better and build on our role as one of the area’s best manufacturers. 

What would you say to someone considering taking up a manufacturing apprenticeship?

Make sure it’s what you want to do –look at every option. See what’s out there, go to career fairs, speak to your teachers and parents. Parents play such an important role for a young person and they’re the ones driving them to work, making sure they’re happy, so talk to them and let them help you.

What more can manufacturers do to get young people involved in the sector?

We need to reach out to young people very early in primary and secondary schools. It’s important we educate them about the opportunities –schools sometimes struggle with careers advice, and industry can help. Unipres operates within schools, we have Apprenticeship Ambassadors at regional and national level, apprentices that go into schools to promote the Primary Engineer programme. Businesses in our sector can do more of this and get youngsters excited about our sector by spending a little bit of time with them.

How has your apprenticeship helped you grow as a person?

I found myself lacking in the academic subjects but always enjoyed the hands-on subjects, but my apprenticeship helped me realise there was more to working life than just doing things one way or another –it opened my eyes to problem solving using different skills, working in a team and it gave me focus and a good career. The impact of an apprenticeship can be tremendous.

If you could sum up your time at Unipres so far in one word, what would it be?

Rewarding –because of the time I have spent with the young people. I started out working in engineering, but this role helps me be part of a new generation of engineers and it’s something really different. To help these young people gain the skill sets and the confidence to go out into industry and make a careerfor themselves is something I will always hold dear.