6th June 2024

Distinguished Apprentice!

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Joel Wynter has completed two apprenticeships whilst at Axis – Gas and Plumbing. He has just achieved a Distinction in his Gas Engineering Operative apprenticeship and last year, came runner up in the Apprentice of the Year Category (Heating and Ventilation News Awards).

We caught up with our very distinguished apprentice!

Why did you choose an apprenticeship?

I was finishing my A Levels and was stuck between going to university or an apprenticeship. Just two people out of 120 people in my year did apprenticeships. But my dad was constantly saying: ‘Do an apprenticeship. You might not think it now, but you will thank me later.’

And I am still thanking him!

His main trade was a mechanic. He showed me how to wire my first plug. He showed me a lot of things. He’s one of those guys that if you say: ‘Can you do this?’, he’ll say: Yeah, I can do it.’ He’s definitely a great influence on me.

Can you describe your life for us, both at college and working with our experts on site?

When you’re in college, one day a week, you’re going through tests and books. And when it comes to the real world, not everything is like a situation in a book. Having like real-life experience really helped me engage.

Luckily, the guys here at Axis let you get hands on experience. At first, obviously you watch, but I was there to learn, not just to sit and watch. I’m quite a visual learner – doing tasks helps me learn how to do something a lot quicker. It embeds in my brain a lot more.

You help with tidying up, passing tools, getting stuff from the van when you need to: generally giving the person you’re working with an easier day. But you’re not just treated like a mate. You are there to learn, to get your qualification as well.

What changes have you noticed most in yourself?

When I started with the plumbing apprenticeship, I was just out of sixth form. I wasn’t the most confident or outgoing person. I was quite shy, in fact.

But my apprenticeship has really brought my confidence up. Before, I’d probably be too shy to ask questions if I was stuck on something. But now I always just call one of one of the guys or managers.

I’m working with new people every day, going into customers’ houses, and it’s given me confidence, and grown my people skills. Getting on with the resident is a major part of the job, as important as getting the job done.

And talking of our residents….

We’ve seen pretty much everything over the years! Obviously, not everyone’s going to be easy. Some residents maybe have had someone working there before and it hasn’t gone to plan, so they hold a resentment, a grudge towards you. So you’ve obviously just got to talk to them, let them realise that you’re different and you can’t just judge a whole company by one person’s actions.

And we also work with a lot of elderly tenants, so you’ve got to change your approach: they may take a little bit longer to understand how a system works. But I show them a few times, write down extra things just in case they forget.

If English is not the resident’s first language they may have a sibling or a daughter or a son who I will speak to over the phone. I will tell them what’s been done or if someone needs to come back or about the health and safety risks.

If we can’t communicate, we have gone on Google Translate or called the office and asked them to relay the information in an e-mail, or get someone who can speak the same language to call the resident.

You do have to adapt the way you are with different residents.

And I’m quite OCD as well. I like things very clean. I feel that helps quite a lot in in tenants’ houses because I know some engineers are quite messy leaving stuff everywhere. But I like to keep everything, everything quite neat.

Why do you think you got a Distinction?

I don’t like to sit back and watch. Sometimes as an apprentice you do feel like you’re a bit of a burden. But I really felt like I wanted to progress and the way I learn is by actually doing stuff.

So, if I know how to do something, I won’t just let the engineer crack on. I’ll always ask: ‘Do you mind if I do this?’ I put myself out there.

Knowing what’s next on the job is also very helpful. Say we are doing a task in stages 1-2-3. If the engineer was getting onto the second task, I’d already have sorted materials and the tools ready to get onto that task.

If I’m thinking ahead, it’s going to speed up our day. That’s definitely helped me. Those little things do make a big impact.

Who has supported you during both apprenticeships?

On the plumbing, my supervisor was Paul Gaskell and I worked with Martyn Jones. And on the gas, I’ve been working with two Gas Installers Jay Gill and Danyal Veli and my supervisor is Perry Gardner.

I feel I have been looked after a lot, whether it’s in work or outside of work. There’s always someone to talk to if I’ve ever needed anything. They’ve always been pushing me to strive for more as well.

For example, Perry was always asking: ‘Do you think you’re ready for a van now; do you think you’re ready to go out and interact with people on your own; are there courses that you want to go on to better your skills?’

I went on electrical courses, and a Honeywell wiring course and a Vaillant boiler repair course to better my skills. Obviously it will help me – and it will help Axis too.

Is there anything you’ve heard or learnt you’ll keep with you forever for your career?

That is a tough question. There’s definitely lots of lots of advice. Every day I hear something I will keep for the future.
The people I’ve worked with have always said that I should keep my mindset towards work, my work ethic, always wanting to improve and do more. I’ll keep that!

Where has this work ethic come from?

From my father. It’s very hard to get a ‘well done’ out of him. I feel like I’m always trying to progress myself just to make sure that I’m never stagnant and I’m always getting to where I want to be. He’s drilled that into me and my brother.

And all this time you are earning, aren’t you, as well as learning?

Yeah, that’s the good thing about the apprenticeship, especially in this society, because you learn how to money manage at a younger age.

In university, some of my mates get grants and they feel it’s not their money so they can spend it how they want.

You don’t get given everything here, so you’ve got to save money, buy some tools for your toolkit that you’re eventually going to need. Earning definitely teaches you about life skills.

When you’re working you feel like you’ve earned it, and you are getting qualified as well. And being paid also gives you the incentive to work harder because you know that your money’s going to go up when you reach the next step.

Top tips for new apprentices?

I’d always say punctuality is pretty much everything. Being punctual is a reflection of yourself. And as we are wearing Axis uniforms, everything is a reflection on the company as well. Punctuality is definitely up there.

What I spoke about before too: showing a sort of eagerness for working, showing that you have the ethics of going the extra mile, using your own initiative and not waiting for someone to tell you to do something.

If you’re turning up late to jobs, just sitting on your phone, not engaging, like you don’t want to be there, then the engineers or the managers might just say: ‘Listen, we don’t think this is for you.’

What about the fun side of being an apprentice?

When we’re working together, we all get along really well and obviously we see each other once a week in college as well. I speak to the guys outside of work all the time. And the Apprentice Days, you meet a lot of different people, in different trades in different parts of the office. And we’re in the same age group.

Next steps?

I would like to work in Commercial, that’s another higher qualification to add on to my skills. And to work on the new components like Air Source Heat Pumps as we try to reduce the amount of gas that’s being used.

If I can get into a new niche market where there’s not that many people, it’ll be a great opportunity, especially as I’m quite young. I would like to take advantage of that.

I really want to continue getting as many courses as I can for the next few years, and getting more experience. I have been going out on my own. I haven’t been doing too many boilers on my own, so I’d like to get that under my belt. I want to get everything I need to know till I’m fully, fully confident.

In the longer term, if you start your own company then obviously Axis sub out some of their work to contractors so a few of the managers told me: ‘If you continue the way you are, we’ll go into partnership with you in the future.”


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