#NAW2018 Special: Q&A with Apprentices

John Danville (18) and Matthew Shanfari (20) are two young apprentices at the K&M Training School in London. For National Apprenticeship Week 2018 (#NAW2018), they shared with us their experience and tips for businesses seeking to work with apprentices, as well as for young people hoping to start their apprenticeship journey.

Thank you for taking the time to speak to Heart of the City today! How did you first hear about the K&M apprenticeship programme?

 John: I was in foster care and had recently moved to London. I had a social worker that had recommended someone else to this course who was in a similar situation to me and ended up getting a job following it. I’m now six months into the programme.

 Matthew: I had friends who had done this course before me and enjoyed it. I had left college and wasn’t doing anything at the time, so this was a great opportunity for me to get into work and sort my life out. I did the course, ended up getting the apprenticeship and it’s worked out well ever since. I’m now two years into the programme.

Did you receive any prior training / work experience before the Apprenticeship programme?

John: No, I had been to college, but I wasn’t doing anything in the construction industry.

Matthew: Not really, my school didn’t provide any work experience and once I left school I went to college and did a bit of construction. Going to college every day of the week wasn’t really for me because I’m more of a hands-on type of person. I like to be out there getting work done, so that’s why I came here to do the four-week course. it’s mostly practical and you study for your Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card at the same time. On the apprenticeship you’re on site four out of five days a week which I like because I like doing the work and seeing the results.

 What is the CSCS and how do you prepare for it?

John: It’s a card you need to go on site. It shows that you know the basic health and safety rules. So, they teach you all of that on the training over the course of 4 weeks. Charlie will teach you each section of the test, so you get familiar with it, do some practice tests and when they think you’re ready they’ll book a test for you.

Why did you join this programme at K&M?

Matthew: My father was a painter and decorator and I used to help him around the house when he used to paint and decorate. I’d help him when he would go around to people’s houses, make tea and coffee, do a little bit of painting here and there. That’s what really got me into painting because it’s what my dad used to do.  I also like the satisfaction of the work, when something is nice, clean and fresh.

How has your experience been as a K&M apprentice so far?

John: It’s been good. They show you what to do, and then you learn by doing. In addition to that you go to college one day a week where they’ll teach you different information.

Matthew: The thing that has made my time here a lot easier and more enjoyable for me is the fact that I know that there are a lot of people there to help me. I’ve made a lot of friends on site. Everyone is quite friendly to apprentices and K&M has a lot of sites. I’ve been here for 2.5 years now and I still haven’t met everyone because there’s so many people (over 200).

What do you enjoy most about the training and apprenticeship programme?

Matthew: The fact that through this training you get to meet a lot of people, you build confidence by being around people. People wouldn’t say it now but before I joined K&M I kept to myself. Now that I’m training here, and I’ve met and interacted with more people over the last two years, my confidence has grown and I’m a lot more comfortable around people.

What do you find the most challenging?

John: Probably getting up every day and the same routine. You start early, and you must adjust depending on how far you must travel. What they do here is prepare you for timekeeping.

Have you felt any positive developments personally and/or professionally as a result of the apprenticeship programme?

Matthew: The confidence has had a positive knock-on effect. From doing the job and getting better at it, it’s enabled me to be able to get private work. It starts off with family and friends, from where you build your network and work.

What does the future hold for you after completing your apprenticeship?

Matthew: I’m staying on here and I’m trying to make my way towards becoming a Foreman, running sites for the firm.

John: I’m just halfway through my first year so my goal would be to finish the two years of the apprenticeship, get my qualification, then it would be the same as Matthew – building my way up through the company towards becoming a Foreman and running sites.

Top 3 Tips from the Apprentices

Top 3 tips for businesses looking to introduce an apprenticeship programmes?

1 – Support with a mentor: Make sure you always have a contact person for the apprentice(s). Someone that they can talk to confidently and in confidentiality. Some people are young so they do need more support and need someone they can trust.

2 – Empathise: Because they’re an apprentice, there will be points where they might mess up because they’re not yet fully qualified. We would say to just be prepared for them to fail some of the time and don’t be too harsh on them. Use them failing to improve and get it correct the next time.

3 – Invest in them: Reiterating Kevin (CEO, K&M Decorating), think of apprentices as an investment for the future not just for the two years and then they move on.

Top 3 tips for individuals hoping to embark an apprenticeship programme?

1 – Timekeeping: Make sure you’re always on time as that’s the main thing that companies will be looking for. Because if you’re always late, not turning up, then you’re not going to get anywhere in life.

2 – Routine: Get into a routine. You have to be at work by 8am (sometimes earlier) so get into a routine e.g. when you’re having breakfast, when you’re leaving and so on. This is so you just know everything throughout the day, what tools to bring etc.

3 – Research: Talk to someone who has already done the apprenticeship, so you can understand their experience, get an opinion of it, how they’ve actually gone through it, the ups and downs, so you really know what to expect and are equipped.

K&M McLoughlin Decorating Ltd. is a Heart of the City Advanced member. As part of their CSR programme they offer a pre-employment course of 4 weeks open to anyone from any background seeking work. Upon successful completion of the course, suitable candidates are then offered a place as an apprentice or improver.

Next Article: Kevin McLoughlin, CEO and Founder of K&M Training School, offers some top tips for running a successful apprenticeship programme.

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