Kevin Shirley is one of JTL’s proudest apprenticeship stories. At 56 years old, with two children aged 18 and 22, he’s now at the finishing line for completing his electrotechnical apprenticeship, with only his portfolio left to be assessed.
“There were a lot of guys saying, ‘Why do you want to go back to college again?’ and I said, it’s a challenge, and it is, but it’s been well worth it.”
Kevin started his apprenticeship in 2018 whilst already employed as a Maintenance Engineer for the company Apleona HSG Ltd. Though working as a mechanical engineer in his day-to-day work, Kevin became curious about courses that could start pushing him toward more in-depth practices to do with electrical engineering.
“My employer offered up some courses, and I asked if they had anything electrical because I wanted to further my knowledge there. I’d done some short courses in the past, but I wanted something that I could properly sink my teeth into.
“They came back to me and said, ‘Well, how about an apprenticeship?’”
Kevin accepted, signing himself back up for education and all the unique challenges it had in store for him. Kevin originally left school back when he was a teenager to complete his first apprenticeship, a 3-year standard in construction, bricklaying to be specific.
“It’s physically challenging, bricklaying, and when I came back from travelling in around 1992 there wasn’t any building work going. It was winter, so I took up a job doing maintenance and I kept on. I picked up mechanical qualifications and facilities management experience and made my way into the industry.”
Because of this time away from education, Kevin had to relearn his functional skills in maths and English in order to begin an apprenticeship. This was his biggest challenge, he says.
“I had to go back and learn English and maths, the way it’s taught now, and that was particularly tricky for me. It was definitely interesting; I mean I ended up having to consult my children a few times.”
Kevin’s voice notably brightens as he talks about his two children, his daughter is doing a degree: “There was a bit of competition there because as she started, I started my apprenticeship, so we could compare our notes on things.
“Of course, both are taking the mickey out of me, it’s all been in good fun though.”
But Kevin’s extensive experience is one of the reasons he’s become a standout apprentice, and whilst he has sometimes needed some extra help with maths and English, when it comes to practical work, he’s been the one his course-mates rely on.
“They’re showing me how to use a calculator and I’m showing them how to use a screwdriver!”
Forming a strong relationship with his training officer Daniel Blyth-Tancock, Kevin has now reached the last stages of his apprenticeship. Kevin says that he would definitely recommend an apprenticeship, adding:
“Personally, I think it’s the way forward. Some people go to universities when it just isn’t right for them, and actually an apprenticeship would be much better for them.”