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13/11/19

Pass it on

Pass it on

Pass it on

David Wileman, Operations Director Driver Trett UK talks about the importance of a mentor, effective training and how knowledge should be shared.

I started my apprenticeship in 1985 in a major engineering power generation company. For the next few years I was put through a works class apprenticeship coupled with further education.

The first period was spent in an apprentice school (with 30 other people in that year’s intake) learning the basics of milling, grinding, turning, sheet metal work, welding, burning, and so on. We then moved onto electrical works and instrumentation, learning how to make our very own car battery chargers and soldering irons, each day with a cap on my head. Throughout this year we were supervised by four first class engineers who were all coming to the end of their careers. Each one had a lifetime of knowledge of first class craftsmanship in a world renowned power company. What a start to working life. 

The apprenticeship was backed up with a college education, day school, and night classes. The second and third year we were all sent out onto ‘the shop floor’ working with experienced people who had to ensure that their work was done whilst keeping a spotty 17 year old interested. This took me to strange places such as the pattern shop and the foundry. I worked in the machine shops and the non-destructive testing (NDT) department and then spent a considerable amount of time in the pipe shop. All completely different whilst at the same time exactly the same. Workers who had spent time as apprentices who had grown to become confident operatives in whatever field they entered. Without exception each one understood the need to be trained and the benefit it brought to them and the company for which they worked.

In the fourth year we migrated into a shirt and tie and took off our steel toe cap shoes. We found ourselves in the many different drawing offices, production offices and finally for me, the planning office. The planning office was full of planners who could take a look at a 2D drawing on a piece of paper and immediately understand timescales, prerequisites and the minutiae required to fabricate whatever was on the paper. Each day was ‘a school day’ learning on the job and being paid for the pleasure.

Then disaster. For international political reasons, that I will not go into, the company lost two massive orders. I had learnt so much at that company and I was desperate for it to continue. Whilst the axe of redundancy did not fall on my neck I made, which was heart breaking at the time, the decision to move into the emerging oil and gas market in Wallsend. Little did I know that the planning manager was as keen on training and personal development as I was to be trained. He ensured that he watched my development, checked my works and offered many an insight as to how I could develop my skills and become a better planner.

You may ask why I am taking you on a wander down my memory lane. Thankfully it is not because I am harking after better days but rather I feel that in some little way I have stepped into the shoes of the chaps in the apprentice school. At Driver Trett, the senior management team have decided to start an in-house training programme named ‘Minerva’. Simply put, over the last three years Driver Trett have taken a proactive approach to recruiting and developing junior members of staff and I have been part of that process. 

‘Minerva’ is a structured training programme which has been developed and implemented by the senior management team where the candidates undertake several training programmes, including an additional relevant post-graduate qualification, with the support of a mentor. Being a mentor has allowed me to pass on the better parts of my 30 plus years of experience and in some little way I feel that I am repaying all the ‘educators’ with whom I have had the joy to learn from. Knowledge…pass it on!

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