Celebrating National Apprenticeship Week 2021

Name: Caleb Sweeten

Age: 18

Joined the Tomcat apprenticeship programme just before he turned 17.

Q. What made you think about going down an Apprenticeship route?

A. When I started Sixth form in Crypt School in Gloucester. I decided that I did not want to sit in a classroom all day, so I thought “What else can I do?”. I wanted to get out of school and try something different. After a little bit of research, I came across apprenticeship programmes and thought it could serve half and half – best of both worlds, college and work.

Q. Did you talk to a career’s advisor or discuss with your parents before you did your research?
A. No, I wanted to carry out my own research first. I didn’t really think about it too much.

I know what I didn’t want to do and this, in turn, dictated the direction I took. I looked at different apprenticeships online.

I thought I would look at what my strengths in school were – which was mainly maths and science and that lead to looking at the engineering sector. When I decided to leave I had no idea of what I wanted to do at all.
I looked at different apprenticeships online and went for it. The school would’ve helped if I asked for it but I did my research at home and looked at different apprenticeship options and looked on my own. I didn’t overthink it.

Q. What was it about Tomcat that appealed to you?
A. When I did my research most of the companies I looked at were big and had big apprenticeship numbers, I didn’t want to be in that sort of environment. And because this would have been my first experience of a “proper job” I thought it would be easier to get into a smaller company instead of a big corporate environment. I didn’t want to be one of many.

Q. What happened when you applied for the Apprenticeship role at Tomcat?
A. I received a phone call from the admin team – it was a very informal chat. Then I was asked to attend an interview with the MD Bob, but as it turned out it wasn’t really an interview – it was more like an informal chat and a show around.
I came for a second look around with my parents (as requested by Bob) and it just worked.

Q. How did you feel about the interview process?
A. I don’t mind interviews, I think they’re necessary. Bob’s method suited me and I think he got the best out of me – it felt easy and I was more relaxed.

Q. How long have you been with Tomcat and the Apprenticeship programme?
A. Coming up to two years. The first year was two days a week – classroom-based stuff one day and then practical the other day. Second-year was more classroom-based with no practical.
You receive a level 3 BTEC with an NVQ from the practical sessions. The assignments side of things makes it harder. I do prefer the practical side. In some ways, I would have preferred to sit an exam at the end of each year – but that’s just a personal choice. The assignments are hard work whilst working full time but I guess you get the hang of it.

Q. Do you enjoy your day-to-day tasks at TC?
A. In the main, yes.

I work on the Research and Development and “specials” projects. I use conventional/ manual and CNC machine shop equipment to produce some of the parts that are needed by Robert and Bob. It’s nice to see the end result of what I’ve been working on.

Q. What skills have you learnt at TC?
A. This is my first proper job; I’ve gained a lot in terms of the experience of simply working full time. Rather than a weekend job, it’s very different. I like getting paid! I’ve also worked with some awesome machinery and learnt some useful techniques. I’ve learnt a lot about time management too.

Q. How do you find it working in a team?
A. When I work, I’m on my own the majority of the time. But I must check things over with Chris and or Robert (production team) I’m happy with this setup, it suits me very well.

Q. What would you change, if anything?
A. Someone of a similar age to myself, perhaps I could banter with. I don’t mind what I do really, it can be repetitive, but I like to know what I am doing every day.

Q. What part of your job have you found the most interesting and why?
A. When I first joined Tomcat everything was a new experience and I was closely guided by Robert, the production manager. I was in amazement of the machinery I was going to use and how my role contributed to the team. It was exciting and new!

Q. What benefits can you see with an apprenticeship?
A. I have always found the academic stuff easy and boring – writing all day is certainly not for me. The apprenticeship allows me to gain experience in a work environment and I feel like I am working towards my future goals.

Q. Will you stay in manufacturing?
A. I don’t really have a clue what I want to do so far, so I am just going to live for day-to-day. See what happens and if I want to move on, I will think about the next step then.

Q. What advice would you give for someone who’s thinking about choosing an apprenticeship route?

Just go for it – do a bit of research, find where your strengths lie and how can you use those to benefit you.