“Different people do things different ways,” says Sam Stocks, an apprentice engineer at Drax Power Station. It’s a sentiment echoed by corporate administration apprentice Chloe Carpenter at Opus Energy. Asked to describe her role, she says, “[It’s] a very different kind of job.”
Chloe and Sam are just two of a number of apprentices at Drax Group who are working across the UK. And while they’re proud to do things differently, they do have something in common – they’re all hands-on, practical people who would rather get stuck in on a project than sit still and hear about it in the classroom.
“I chose an apprenticeship over higher education because I’m more of a doing person,” says Molly Fensome, a corporate administration apprentice. Sam agrees. “I like to be hands-on,” he says. “I don’t like being sat in a classroom.”
They are doing things their way – engineering their own futures while growing personally and professionally. And ensuring the future of our energy supply in the process.
Finding a strong sense of identity
For Sam, working at Drax wasn’t just a sensible career move, it was also following in his family’s footsteps. “My grandad worked in the power station industry all his life. [My family] know exactly what I’m like and they knew what type of place this was to work.”
Drax’s transformation from a coal-powered plant to a modern, sustainable electricity company means Sam’s work is building a power framework for future generations, while also paying homage to his grandad’s career.
Jake Dawson, an electrical engineer apprentice, followed a similar path into the power industry. Being born and bred in the area, Drax Power Station has always been a part of his geography. “Because I’m such a local lad it was perfect for me,” he says.
In his role, Jake can play a key part in the region where he grew up. A recent Oxford Economics report shows that Drax contributes £431 million to Yorkshire and the Humber economy and supports over 3,200 jobs.
A role in a team
Drax is a large organisation, but for Chloe finding role models within her team she can look up to and take guidance from has been easy. “Mentoring sessions are relaxed and you build a special bond with that person,” she says. “You can talk to them about work, outside of work – anything. They’ll always be there for you.”
Corporate administration apprentice Matt Donnelly has had a similar experience, adding that he’s seen his confidence grow, and feels he has made lifelong friends in his role.
Ultimately, it’s not just that they are given the right support, but that apprentices are integrated as a part of the company from day one. “My favourite part of my apprenticeship so far is being part of the team,” says Chloe. “Because you feel like you’re not just an apprentice, but you’re also one of them.”
Being part of something bigger
Sam remembers his first day at Drax Power Station: “It was overwhelming, you don’t actually realise how big it is and realise how many people work here. It’s just normal now, if I go anywhere else, I’m thinking, ‘That’s not as big as at work.’”
It’s not just its size that makes the UK’s biggest single site renewable power station stand out, but the potential for career development there. It’s this that Jake had on his mind when he first made the decision to become an apprentice. He was working in an unskilled job with little opportunity, but he knew he had it in him to find something bigger.
His outlook today as a Drax apprentice is very different. “My aim after the four years is to carry on growing as a person, increasing all my skills that I have, and maybe eventually becoming a supervisor or an engineer, who knows?”
This mindset of striving for better is evident across apprentices. It’s what drove them to join the programme in the first place. “Instead of going somewhere like uni and then possibly coming out without a job, you’ve got a job, and you’re actually learning as you’re doing it,” says Sam. “The skill set that I’ve learnt now – I’ll probably go anywhere in the world with it.”