Valuable skills, lifelong knowledge

Garry Pratt, senior project manager on London Underground's Four Lines Modernisation programme, started his career as an apprentice. Here's his story...

"It all started when I went to my local careers office during the six week holiday in 1998 after my first year in sixth form. I'd decided education wasn't for me at that time and I wanted to get into full-time employment. I wanted to get into an apprenticeship following a good chat with my Dad.

"They sent me off for an interview and test at the LU Engineering Training School at Acton. I was successful in both and they offered me a four-year Modern Apprenticeship scheme in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering with LU.

"I spent my first year at the training school with one-day college release where I learned all about the basic maintenance engineering disciplines.

I struggled in the first year as it was like being back at school and I thought I knew better! From that experience, I can assure all new apprentices that the first year is the hardest and the one where the hard work pays off – but you need to stick at it!

"After that, the next three years are spent working across the LU network. In my case this included Transplant (Engineering Fleet), the Piccadilly Line Fleet and the Jubilee Line Fleet. College continues on a day release, where you build up your engineering portfolio and work towards your NVQ Level 3.

Measure twice, cut once

"My first line manager at Transplant (Lilliebridge Depot) once said to me 'measure twice, cut once'. Sometimes I would rush jobs to look like I was quick and efficient; however mistakes often popped up... so he told me to take my time, quality over quantity... He then used the 'measure twice, cut once' quote. How often do we forget this one!

"My advice to apprentices is to work hard during this time as you have the added benefit of learning on the job, and having your work tested and approved by your team leader. Once you've "passed out", as in completed the scheme, that's when the pressure comes – but I will say in a good way!

"After my scheme I extended my apprenticeship by six months to take on a commercial role looking at the new public-private partnership model. This gave me an excellent insight to how the PPP was going to operate."

Life learnings at LU

"Since my apprenticeship, my roles have included support manager for the Piccadilly Line and a three-year stint as performance manager on the same line. I moved on to become a stations availability manager and emergency response unit manager, before joining the private sector with Ferrovial and gaining experience working in both Barcelona and Madrid. In the UK, I worked on Crossrail for three years before returning to LU in my current role.

"I really enjoyed my time as an apprentice. The skills you learn from the teams in the depot and network are so valuable and the knowledge you gain stays with you for life! It certainly has for me. I look back at the scheme with great pleasure and one
I would recommend to any school leaver looking to get into engineering.

"The LU scheme was excellent and I made a lot of new friends from various parts of London who I still bump into today, and I always try to stop for a quick chat on my travels. I cannot stress how important it is to keep in touch and have a good network in your business and wider field."

Reference: Transport Times Skills Supplement - available 9 Sep

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