16 January 2014 By Billy Hawkins
Four months into a four year apprenticeship, our apprentice Eliott is now a familiar face around our head quarters here at Torberry. He is, both from his own point of view and ours, well settled, enjoying himself and looking forward to projects the Design office will be challenging him within weeks to come.
With so much about apprenticeships in the news and as part of the government’s employment agenda, I was keen to find out how Eliott had arrived here at Alitex and what he is getting out of it.
“Unlike manufacturing apprenticeships, of which there are a number in this area, there are very few design apprenticeships. I’d wanted to be a designer forever”, says Eliott, “and it was vital in my mind that I get on with it and search out practical experience whilst learning at the same time."
Eliott searched online for anything within a 40 mile radius of his home (which is a long commute) he just felt that getting the right opportunity would be worth the travelling. Thank fully, guided by an engineer father, Eliott applied for the Alitex apprenticeship and won it amidst stiff competition.
I’m reminded of Alice Wrightson who won our Sparsholt College garden design opportunity to design our Hampton Court 2013 stand – she said how much she wished more companies, like Alitex, could provide more hands-on opportunities for young people with a purpose and will to get on.
At Alitex we also have a manufacturing apprentice, Lewis.
“Lewis is now coming to the end of his second year with Alitex and is a valued member of the team. He is currently working on CNC machines, handling aluminium extrusions, working to precise drawings and ensuring tolerances are met, frequently with time pressures added. Lewis would like to complete his apprenticeship to become a qualified machinist, and enjoys learning on the machines. We like having him around.” Dave Miles, Production Manager.
One of the surprises for Eliott, leaving the familiar educational environment of college, was how welcoming he found the workplace here. He had expected a more intimidating environment, he had expected not to feel comfortable voicing his opinion or asking for help, but the opposite is true. He feels utterly comfortable raising concerns with his mentor or asking questions of any member of the team – and it helps us relook at detail we may have taken for granted or assumed. Explaining why something happens as it does allows us to check our own processes – is it still the best way of getting something done or in this case, designed.
During GCSE’s and A levels, Eliott used Solidworks regularly, completing projects by teaching himself a lot about this system which we use daily. He believes this probably had a lot to do with his getting the job; he had already gained an insight – and had a curiosity about – Solidworks.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the day for Eliott is working on ground plans with Solidworks and one of the things which he has appreciated learning about is the role of the design office within the company. Understanding how the company works and economic design in particular – “design intent”, develops his ability to think as part of the wider Alitex team, not just within the design “bubble”.
For the future, Eliott can look forward to learning about how the greenhouses within the Alitex range differ, the extrusions and construction factors which make the difference to the Alitex product. Eliott hasn’t quite got the gardening bug yet, but his enthusiasm for the Alitex greenhouse is infectious, “They (the glasshouses) are gorgeous. The design is full of small, clever ideas which add up to one exceptionally well engineered product.”
The design apprenticeship has been life-shifting for Eliott. When he thinks back to six months ago he feels as though he has matured a lot, simply by becoming more independent and having a sense of purpose in a profession he has always aspired to.