Picture of former apprentice Jake Fletcher working on a piece of engineering equipment at Whale Tankers

How Whale Tankers uses apprenticeship scheme to invest in the future

Published:  02 March, 2017

Whale Tankers has long-running apprenticeship scheme through which young people can learn through a combination of hands-on training and academic study.

The success the scheme brings is exemplified by Jake Fletcher. He started with the company eight years ago and went on to get HNC and HND qualifications. He gained valuable hands-on experience spending four years working on the shop floor, before working within the technical department and moving on to production design, where he currently works.

Jake has since gone on to obtain a first class honour degree (BEng) in mechanical engineering from BCU and is currently studying for his masters at the same institution. He has also received his Incorporated Engineer Certification from the IMechE.

Jake said: ‘The apprenticeship scheme at Whale is fantastic because it covers a range of disciplines and you get the chance to work within a variety of departments across the business, such as production and sales.

‘I first looked at other companies for apprenticeships but, after finding out about the scheme at Whale, the exciting variety of work on offer and the combination of hands-on training and academic study, I decided this was the right scheme for me.’

Jake’s Godfather was a toolmaker, installing into him a passion for technical, hands-on working from a very young age. Like many people starting out, Jake also found the idea of being able to study while earning a living as part of an apprenticeship scheme highly appealing.

‘My ambition is to be a chartered engineer because I love working on projects and the scheme at Whale has put me on the right path to ensure I can make this a reality,’ he said.

‘I’m not saying it’s easy as sometimes I’ve spent around 35-40 hours per week working on my degree part-time and if I have a large assignment I often spend an additional 12 hours working on it during weekends.’

On the other hand, many of Jake’s contemporaries took a different route by going straight to university and some are now experiencing problems getting employment because they do not have a high enough level of practical working experience.

Mark Warmington, managing director for Whale Tankers and himself a former apprentice, said: ‘At Whale we believe that we have a responsibility to bring on the next generation of skilled engineers. The development of young people is not only important for us, but also for the wider manufacturing industry moving forward into the future.

‘This approach brings many benefits, such as being able to develop our own people so that not only gain engineering skills and expertise but also learn about other important areas of business.

‘As part of the structured training programme, all our apprentices spend time working in different departments so, as they develop over time, they begin to appreciate and understand all of the elements that make up a successful global business like ours.

‘The apprenticeship scheme here has been running for many years now and has been highly successful. Despite the recession several years ago, we have continued to invest heavily in the programme and strongly believe it is not only important for the young people involved but also vital to the development and growth of talent for our company’s future.’

The Whale apprenticeship scheme has been operating for more than 17 years with 37 men and women successfully completing the programme within this time and 14 former apprentices still employed at Whale. The scheme is helping many young people to achieve their goals, with a large number of apprentices going on to have very successful careers within Whale and now enjoying the many benefits of undertaking an apprenticeship with the company.

Run in conjunction with IMechE (Institution of Mechanical Engineers), Whale apprentices attend Warwickshire College to receive their formal training. The qualifications they study for include EAL Level 3 NVQ Extended Diploma in Fabrication and Welding Engineering, City & Guilds Level 3 Diploma in Engineering, Functional Skills Level 2 in Maths, English and ICT. Apprentices are also taught related topics such as employment responsibilities and rights and personal learning and thinking skills.

Candidates for the Whale Advanced Apprenticeship in Engineering scheme need five GCSEs or equivalent grade C and above including English, maths and a core science subject. Stage one of the application process involves an initial assessment with an interview and site visit, with stage two including a one day assessment with basic testing. 

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