Axis’ Apprentice Mentor on Painting Apprenticeships
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Axis Apprentice Mentor Michael Burke has been at Axis for five years. From recruitment to graduation and beyond, Micky works with our Painting and Decorating apprentices teaching them their trade and supporting them on their path to a new career. He is in a unique position to monitor, mentor and chart successes.
Q: Before becoming an Apprentice master, were you were an apprentice yourself?
I started as a Painting and Decorating apprentice having obtained a City and Guilds qualification. That’s the predecessor to NVQs – you can tell my age! I worked for Southwark Council for 13 years in Peckham. There was a variety of properties then, it was pre-right-to-buy and pre ‘gentrification’.
Q: Advice to anyone considering an apprenticeship?
I would recommend an Apprenticeship 100 per cent. You see the youngsters grow up quicker, they get more street savvy and they are earning money. Working as an apprentice can be quite full on. You learn a lot from a young age and you are working with real residents in their homes. And because you see all sorts of real life first hand, you are learning on your feet.
Many people come out of university with nothing but debt and they have got to find somewhere to live and start from scratch. Our apprentices, some of them are 16, have a real head start on people older than themselves. They have found their feet, started their careers.
Q: Becoming an Axis apprentice is a prized position: what are the benefits?
Working in a safe environment in a company where managers/directors have also been apprentices before, and with other people who have been apprentices before. This means that we don’t give our apprentices the work that no one else wants to do!
Q: Do our young people appreciate how lucky they are?
Yes and no. They are young people! There can be slacking. You do have to offer the carrot. I often say ‘we have to wait till the job is done, then we can have a break’. I think they realise it when they see apprentices from other businesses. Other apprentices don’t have our privileges, they don’t have nice kit for example. We give our apprentices nice clean workwear. And it is clear that here at Axis the company values our apprentices. That is not always the case in other businesses.
Q: Who influences youngsters to take on an apprenticeship? Parents or schools or both?
I think our apprentices have found their own path. They look at what is open to them. They know working in an office or a shop is not for them. They have chosen their own avenue.
Q: You actively recruit our apprentices. What are you looking for? What makes someone stand out?
It’s mainly attitude: wanting to do the job itself and learn a trade. The skillset will follow in time.
Q: Any shining examples of Axis Apprentices whom you have seen start as a youngster and then rise through the ranks?
Cameron Bonthron and Francesca Fordham stand out. Cameron is only 21/22. He is such a lateral thinker. Francesca is another great example of what can be achieved when you work hard.
We’ve also got former apprentices who have been with us in the long term who are now qualified and training our new apprentices. It works both ways: I learn from my young apprentices all the time too!
Q: I know some of our Apprentices start with say Gas and then go on to Plumbing? Is that usual and is it a good thing to do. Or do we prefer someone to stay on the one path?
We prefer “swap don’t drop” so that our apprentices stay in a trade rather than being lost to an office/shop environment. Normally Painting and Decorating apprentices, before we start them, have done a pre-1st year at college for three days a week so that is normally the time when the swapping/ changing occurs. By the time I interview and take them on for the work experience they are settled in their trade choice