Like many of JTL’s apprentices, Jaspal Shergill had the personal and academic qualities to pursue a wide range of options once he finished school – including the option of going to university. It was only during the first year of his A-Levels that his preferred career path became clear to him. “Yes, I was capable academically and I might well have followed the academic route had I not started giving a hand to my builder uncle,” says Jaspal. “It struck me that I far preferred practical, hands-on work to formal book learning. I certainly found it more interesting and more challenging than I thought I would, and it was at that point that I started thinking about a career in construction.”
Due to his school’s focus on university applications, little information was made available to Jaspal about the apprenticeship route and he consequently struggled to find the right type of apprenticeship for himself. Eventually, he decided to pursue an electrical apprenticeship in his home city of Coventry and subsequently applied to Balfour Beatty, one of the country’s leading international infrastructure groups.
“I knew they were one of the most successful companies of their kind and I was excited at the number of ground-breaking projects such as HS2 that they were involved in”, says Jaspal. “Balfour Beatty is also part of the 5% Club, meaning that the company is committed to ensuring that 5% of its workforce is made up of apprentices, graduates and sponsored students, so I knew that this was a place where I could develop and grow my skillset.”
When Jaspal started at Balfour Beatty, he was assigned to the company’s rapidly growing Highways Maintenance team. Primarily responsible for providing highway maintenance services in Warwickshire, the team works closely with the local council to deliver a variety of specialist services including winter maintenance works and the installation of new energy efficient street lighting.
“This was a really busy team with an efficient and effective way of going about things,” says Jaspal. “But they always made time to develop my skills and explain the best way of doing things. I don’t like to stand back and just watch. I want to get involved – and that was exactly what my supervisor expected from me. By having the chance to also study at a local college as part of my apprenticeship has allowed me to stand back and understand the theory behind what we do, and thereby improve my workplace competency.”
Jaspal’s line manager, Pete Wesson, notes that he has excelled in every challenge given to him: “I have only ever had positive feedback from Jaspal’s college and his colleagues. He has consistently shown a willingness and commitment to both learning and taking on new skills that complement his electrical experience. With the support of the Balfour Beatty team, he has gained the Heavy Goods license needed to drive our gritting vehicles, completed his NVQ for winter maintenance operations, and taken on the lead role in our out-of-hours emergency service. He is, quite simply, an indispensable member of our team.”
This success is reflected by the fact that Jaspal was shortlisted for the recent B.A.M.E Apprentice of the Year Award—an accolade reserved for apprentices who are seen to go above and beyond in their commitment to their profession.
On the verge of qualifying, Jaspal is conscious of how far he has come in terms of both his professional and personal development: “Although I am probably most proud of achieving my Level 3 Electrotechnical qualification, I am aware of how good this apprenticeship has been for me in terms of my interpersonal skills. I was shy and incredibly quiet when I started my apprenticeship and the process of working with others as part of my training has allowed me to develop my self-confidence and my communication skills.”
When asked why he thinks other people rate him highly, Jaspal has an interesting – and instructive – answer: “I don’t think it’s just about my work ethic or my commitment to my college studies; I think what makes me slightly different is that I am comfortable with making mistakes. You can only learn by taking risks and by doing things that test your capabilities – and often that means being willing to get things wrong. It also means being quick to ask for guidance and help when you need it. Fortunately, the team I work with has always been there for me.”
Pete Wesson adds: “Jaspal came to us as a really shy lad and has evolved into one of the best apprentices I’ve worked with over the years. I have never known him to be late or miss a day and his ability to learn – well, let’s just say he soaks it in like a sponge. The truth is that he has become a major asset to us; we were lucky to get him in the first place and it would be very difficult to replace him. All of us at Balfour Beatty are excited to welcome Jaspal in a full-time role once he completes his apprenticeship – he has the potential to go far within the company and we all look forward to watching him do so.”