My Apprenticeship Journey | Andy and Adam Borthwick

31st May 2023

Andy and Adam BorthwidkFather and son, Andy and Adam Borthwick, both started their careers with Sterling as apprentices in electrical and instrumentation (E&I).

Andy, now an Engineering Integration Lead at our Dudley facility, joined Sterling in 1985 and was one of the first people at the site to be trained as an E&I Technician. From there, he worked in various roles, including with Engineering Management, plant commissioning, project department, drawing office and process control while also completing units with the Open University.

Adam, who is a current E&I Apprentice, joined Sterling straight after finishing school at 16. Adam had previously completed work experience at Sterling, which inspired him to come back as an apprentice in September 2021.

How has the industry changed over time?

Andy: The technology used across the industry has changed a lot. When I started my apprenticeship, the equipment we used wasn’t as complex as it is now, as most of the work we do involves some sort of digital system. There’s a lot more automation than there used to be too. I think this makes apprenticeships a lot more complex than when I did mine.

What skillsets are required in the modern industry that perhaps weren’t when Andy did his apprenticeship?

Andy: There are a couple of areas where I’ve noticed that things have changed. The hands-on element of the role is very much the same as it was, but on an academic level there’s a lot more that apprentices need to learn and digest as things on plant have become more complex and digitised.

We try to ensure that all the apprentices coming into Sterling develop their confidence from the get-go. They need to make sure that they have the confidence to mix and communicate face-to-face with a range of different people, which I think with all the technology they have from a younger age now-a-days, can be more challenging.

The support apprentices have from their first day has evolved since I was an apprentice. We have a dedicated learning and development team on site who do a fantastic job of supporting the apprentices and I’ve seen a huge difference in their performance from having the team available to help.

Adam: Behavioural reviews are a big thing at Sterling in terms of supporting apprentices, particularly from a health and safety perspective. We have these regular reviews with our Talent Acquisition team to make sure we are up to date with all the latest training, which wasn’t as common when my dad was my age. I find this beneficial as it lets me know I’m on the right track or what I can do to improve.

How much were you inspired by Andy to become an apprentice and follow in the same industry?

Adam: Before I started working at Sterling, I knew my dad had built his career here, but I wasn’t aware that he started here on an apprenticeship too. It was really reassuring to know my dad went through the same process that I am going through. It’s also great to see how successful he’s been in his career. It’s motivating me to work hard and achieve what he has.

How much support do you give Adam through his apprenticeship?

Andy: It’s great to be able to chat with Adam about work and see where I can support him. I try not to step on his toes and let him develop in his own way, but he knows I’m always here if he has any questions.

Adam: We have a lot of discussions around the dinner table! Having someone to talk to if I have any extra questions is reassuring.

Where do you see your career going once you’ve finished your apprenticeship?

Adam: I’m hoping to go on to complete a higher education degree. I think now that I have this industry experience it will make it a lot easier and I think it’ll also help me in my role at Sterling, as I’ll be able to apply that knowledge back to the business in order to help improve processes.

I’d like to go on to be a technician in the future. I think it’s a good motivator knowing that if I work hard then I’ll be able to progress in my career here. It’s inspiring to see that so many people and apprentices that I work with have developed and grown in their careers here too.

Andy: Adam has the potential to be a technician on the plant like I did or to take a completely different career path as a result of the various opportunities offered at Sterling. Our apprentices are given the chance to work in various departments to see where their skills lie best, which really allows our apprentices to grow. They benefit from a mix of hands-on experience, academic training and continuous professional development, which I don’t think can be achieved as easily via other academic routes.

What were/are your favourite parts of your apprenticeships?

Andy: My favourite part was the learning and development I received as part of my apprenticeship. But also, the friendships I’ve made along the way. Some of the people I met on my first day as an apprentice here in 1985 are still some of my good friends today, which just shows how much of a strong, teamworking mentality there is here.

Adam: It’s a really great teamworking environment. Everyone gets along and learning on the job is amazing and everything I wanted when I left school. At school I learnt a lot, but I didn’t know how to apply that knowledge in an industry setting, so it’s good to be able to see what impact the work I’m doing has on a particular project or on the company.

Would you recommend doing an apprenticeship and why?

Andy: I would recommend doing an apprenticeship. Being an apprentice gives you the opportunity to develop your skills and knowledge in a hands-on environment, which is great for personal and career development.

Adam: I would recommend it. Lots of my friends went to college first but didn’t enjoy it as they found it was just the same as being at school. Doing an apprenticeship gives you that extra responsibility and prepares you better for work life after your apprenticeship.

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of, or starting, an apprenticeship?

Andy: I would say to have a good think about what direction you want to go in. Try to get some work experience before you leave school as this will help you to see whether that area of work is potentially something you’d enjoy. You won’t know what you want to do until you give it a try.

Adam: I agree with my dad, you don’t know what you want to do until you’ve had that first hand experience. An apprenticeship is entirely different to what you’ll have experienced at school so it’s important to go in with an open mind.

To find out more about our current apprenticeship roles, click here.

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