To mark National Apprenticeship Week 2024, we sat down with Stuart Harrison to discuss his career journey from an electrical apprentice to site manager at Woodward Group.
This year, National Apprenticeship Week 2024 celebrates the #SkillsForLife that apprenticeships provide and aims to bring together everyone passionate about apprenticeships to celebrate the value, benefits and opportunities that they bring.
Having started out as an apprentice himself sixteen years ago, our site manager, Stuart Harrison, is now responsible for the training and development of a number of young apprentices at Woodward Group. In this interview, he shares an insight into his career, the skills for life he’s gained since starting out, and why he thinks Woodward Group is a great place to work for young apprentices.
Can you tell us a bit about your career and how you joined Woodward Group?
As soon as I left school I went straight into an electrical apprenticeship and haven’t really looked back since. The “skills for life” theme of National Apprenticeship Week 2024 couldn’t be more fitting, as apprenticeships really do equip you for a long career in your chosen profession through offering hands-on, real world training. If sixteen year old me could see myself now, I wouldn’t believe the progression I’ve made and how far I’ve grown in my career. It’s been a really rewarding journey so far.
Around six or seven years ago, Aden approached me to join the Woodward Group team as a supervisor, working on sites up and down the country and looking after apprentices on the team. Since then, through gaining valuable experience and training, I’ve moved up to the position that I’m in now as a site manager.
What does your role typically involve day-to-day?
A typical day for me basically involves making sure everyone is keeping busy! Each morning, I get to the office and go through a list of everyone’s names and what their tasks are for the day, and make sure everyone has the correct materials they need and understands what they’re doing, so that sites can run smoothly. I also have a 7.30am meeting every morning with other people on site to let everyone know where we are up to with works and what we’re doing that day.
On Fridays, I start preparing for the following week, for instance getting my labour board written up and prepping toolbox talks ready for the guys to sign on to the following week. When Monday comes around, I’ll have everybody’s timesheets to sign, and make sure they line up with the signing in sheets. I also spend time raising quotations and allocating labour to new jobs that come in.
How has Woodward Group supported your training and development?
Woodward Group supported me to undertake Site Supervision Safety Training Scheme (SSSTS) training, which has given me the skills and knowledge I need to supervise and keep the team safe on site, in compliance with Health and Safety standards.
More recently, I have completed Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) training, which is the next step up of the SSSTS qualification. This scheme delves into the financial aspects of managing sites, alongside some more advanced health, safety, welfare and environmental issues that can occur in the workplace.
Can you tell me a bit about Woodward Group’s apprenticeship scheme?
Because of the scale of the projects we undertake at Woodward Group, there are multiple different skills and jobs that apprentices can be working on. Owing to the size of the projects we work on, our apprentices learn a whole range of skills across a scope of mechanical, electrical and containment fit outs, from simple wiring to building complex frameworks. We make sure that every apprentice is always working with another person, so they are properly supported in their training.
At the moment, we’ve got some really talented apprentices coming through who are very good at what they do, which is great to see.
What makes Woodward Group a great place to work for young apprentices starting out in their career?
Woodward Group is a very well organised company. All team members, including apprentices are given a weekly rota that tells you everything you need to know, from where you’ll be based and who you’re working with, through to what van you need to be in at the start of the day. All of Woodward Group’s supervisors are very approachable and easy to talk to, and we also have a group message that allows anyone who has any issues to report back if needed.
I do a quarterly report for every apprentice I work with that shows how well they’re progressing and where they can continue to improve. That way they always have a regular bit of feedback coming in and can reflect on their own progress.
There are clear progression opportunities available within Woodward Group – you can work your way up from an apprentice right through to a site supervisor. In fact, many of Woodward Group’s Senior team started out as apprentices here.
The social side of the business is also a great attraction. We have a mid-year work do, and a Christmas do each year. Plus, we’re a close knit bunch, so more informally we’ll often meet up for a drink over the weekend.
Woodward Group is a family run business and it shows. Being supportive of one another is a value that’s woven throughout the business and reflected in all the team here, and is something we’re all proud of.