Born in Elephant and Castle, David Leonard is a Londoner well suited to his new role. Not just because he’s been in the industry for the past 50 years, but because he started his own apprenticeship as a pipefitter and welder in 1972.
“I had the best apprenticeship ever and I loved the job. That’s important and I’ve always had to go for work that I enjoy. My dad always said, ‘whatever job you get, make sure you like it – because you’re going to do it for 50 years’. I used to work on huge sites, where it was all about camaraderie. You’d help each other out and it’d be a great laugh.”
David’s experience has seen him work across a multitude of projects, including some recognisable names such as Concorde to St Thomas’s Hospital. It also brings a unique understanding of the pressures facing young Axis people, and he highlights how important it is to foster a positive working environment. “I want my apprentices to have the same experience as I had. If Apprentices enjoy their time, then they are more productive. The customer at the end will be more pleased with them, we get better feedback, and they keep improving.”
“My management approach is to give an arm around the shoulder and point people in the right direction. I encourage everyone to ask questions and talk to me about anything they need. Our conversations are always confidential because I need to know if my apprentices are having any problems or trouble. Unless I’m told, I can’t help. So, our chats are between me and them.”
One of David’s passions is staying active. As a keen tennis player, he spends two hours on the court every Thursday, come rain or shine. This stands him in good stead – in the sense of both dedication and because he is often on the move. A big part of being Apprentice Mentor is heading to our sites around the country, from Solihull to Hastings.
“When I meet my apprentices, I am always chasing after things. Whether that’s checking up on PPE or reminding people about exams. I have to make sure our apprentices are up to date with all their college work and assignments, so we meet on a monthly basis for a discussion about progress, concerns and praise. I’ve got to make sure they get everything they need for them to fulfil the roles that we expect from them.”
Now living in Orpington with his wife, Susan, David’s real passion is making pickles and jams. “I enter lots and lots of competitions for them, and I’ve got boxes of red rosettes, which are 1st place. (I’ve also got boxes of blue and yellow, but we don’t show them off because their 2nd and 3rd).”
That competitive nature might well be key, especially with his sights set on some ambitious targets for the department. “My aim is to produce the best apprentices in our industry and make Axis Europe the name that is first thought of when the word apprentice is used. We want to be the leaders and I know, with all your help, we can be that company.”
It’s clear that David has a passion for his role, but perhaps more importantly, he cares about our apprentices. He is proud to support the next generation. “An apprentice phoned me on Monday saying ‘Dave, guess what? I’ve just passed my exams’, I could have cried. I’m so, so pleased for them, it’s lovely to see them succeed. And when they do it on their own, there’s no better feeling in the world.”