“Apprentices are armed with real qualifications, real experience and real references from real jobs; they can carry out the work from day one.”
That’s the message from Tom Glover, UK County Chair at RWE, one of Europe’s largest energy companies. As we celebrate Apprenticeship Week 2023, Tom discusses why he champions the value of apprenticeships for both businesses and individuals.
And, as the renewable energy industry accelerates towards net zero, he explains why apprenticeships are crucial to a better, cleaner future.
“When I was 16, my future was clear-cut. I studied A-levels, and I went to university. I never even considered the idea of an apprenticeship.
“But since then, much has changed. Nowadays, an apprenticeship is an exciting alternative to university, or it can be a great opportunity to change careers later in life and cost effective too. Apprentices earn from day one and could be taking home a wage of £21,000 by the end of our programme. In the not-so-distant future, a fully qualified wind technician could earn in the region of £38,000 – demonstrating why an apprenticeship is a desirable pathway for those wanting to change careers, as well as school leavers.
“And while the earn as you learn way of doing things is extremely attractive for those starting out on their chosen career paths, apprenticeships are also of huge value to employers. Take the energy industry as an example, in which I’ve worked for the past 26 years.
“RWE Renewables’ key investments are in offshore wind farms, onshore wind farms, solar farms, and low carbon generation sources. Therefore, our apprenticeships are now mainly in those areas.
“As we drive towards the goal of net zero, apprenticeships are crucial to maintaining pace with the rapid rate of growth. We plan to invest £15 billion in the UK over the next eight years and we want to build another six offshore wind farms in the same period. And overall, offshore wind capacity in the UK is forecast to triple in the next eight years.
“It’s very simple maths. That means we also need to triple the number of wind turbine technicians, and we’re only going to do that if we in the industry trains them ourselves. In addition, we also need people in the other services that help ensure the success of our business, which is why we also offer IT apprenticeships.
“Apprenticeship schemes are essential for training people so they have technical knowledge and specific skills. This year, we’re offering about 28 apprenticeships, but we have 50 live apprentices across the business, and most are likely to secure well paid roles and an exciting career at RWE, with the remainder having excellent CVs that will be very attractive to other energy companies.
“Wales plays a significant role in the training of our apprentices. Our national technician apprenticeship hub is based at Coleg Llandrillo. So, while you may work at any of our sites across the UK, if you want to become a wind turbine technician apprentice with RWE, your academic and technical training will be in north Wales.
“On becoming an RWE apprentice, you’ll spend a lot of time on site. You’ll be given the tools and the skills to actually do the job with the rest of the technicians and then you’ll spend regular time at Coleg Llandrillo, where we pay for accommodation. Not only do you obtain the necessary skills, but you also gain recognised qualifications.
“If you’re an onshore or offshore apprentice, your typical working day starts by travelling to a turbine – be it by van, boat, or helicopter – and you’ll spend the day with experienced people, probably in the turbine nacelle which is at the top of a 150m turbine tower.
“And if you’re offshore, be prepared to travel by boat in all weather conditions. You’ll get dropped off at a turbine to be picked up many hours later. For some of our newer sites that are further offshore, it means living on a vessel two weeks on, two weeks off.
“It’s a really challenging and interesting job in a hands-on environment.
“For me, apprenticeships mean employability. Our apprentices are armed with real qualifications, real experience and real references from real jobs; they can carry out the work from day one. Apart from the technical side of the roles, apprentices have also already mastered the simple skill of showing up for work on time, being on shift, and being reliable and professional. In very simple terms, apprenticeships help teach people how to work, and that should never be underestimated.
“When an apprentice’s CV lands on an employer’s desk, it shows a level of dedication. Dividing your time between working on site and learning at college demonstrates commitment and energy.
“While the majority of our apprentices do tend to be young, we also take on older apprentices who are changing careers. We’re particularly keen on supporting people from the armed forces who bring different experiences into the business, such as how to manage people or how to deliver under pressure and in difficult situations. At RWE, we are passionate about employing a diverse workforce with different educational and cultural backgrounds.
“I’m a father of two boys. I’m someone who is academic, and I absolutely loved my university experience, but I am really encouraging my children to actively consider apprenticeships and decide if that’s the right path for them. For example, my oldest son has just joined the Royal Navy for officer training at age 19 – a different sort of apprenticeship.
“And that’s because apprenticeships are now such good options – not just at RWE, but across the energy industry and other sectors too. They are being done properly with proper pay, proper qualifications, and proper schemes. It’s how it should be.”
For more information about becoming an apprentice, visit the Apprenticeship Wales Genius Decision website or call 0800 028 4844.