I have worked for BEL Valves for three years now as an Electrical and Mechanical Technician. With such a demanding workload, I was offered another pair of hands in the form of an apprentice.

I was looking for an apprentice who will listen, have enthusiasm to learn and especially have people skills to be able to communicate any queries or concerns they may have.

I first came across Sam working on the shop floor in fitting; he was very quiet with a good attitude and application to his work. Sam had been with the company almost two years and was coming to the end of his BTEC in mechanical engineering at college, where he had studied hard and achieved excellent results.

Sam was asked to think about what discipline he would like to continue his career in and if multi-skilling was something that would interest him. Multi-skilling is basically the ability to work mechanically for example; hydraulics, pneumatics, fitting, mechanical break downs as well as being able to work on a full scope of electrical issues encountered from installation and testing to the tools we use in the test areas.

A short time later a meeting was arranged to outline a clear training plan, the benefits of being multi-skilled, what would be expected and most importantly the level of support he could expect from myself, Paul Nilsson, a development engineer and the company as a whole.

Once this was explained, I think Sam’s mind was quickly made up and he joined me to observe and occasionally assist for a few months.  This was a two way transitional period to make sure it was something he wanted to do and that he would integrate well into the team and pick up the skills needed. Sam quickly understood the basic principles without any issues.

After this period, it was agreed that Sam would switch his college course from mechanical to electrical engineering to complete his HNC in that coming college year. This would enable him to obtain an under pinning knowledge to assist him with his development.  It was a big step, but Sam took it in his stride and continued to study well and achieve really good results. It also began to prove very beneficial, as he quickly began asking relevant questions when we were fault finding, setting up instrumentation apparatus or planning a project.

Sam has assisted in the design, build, installation and testing of the Kaombo cells (a group of cells in the factory specifically for the testing of small bore valves) and all three hyperbaric chambers to date. He has gained great experience in a reasonably short space of time, which will stand him in great stead for the coming months when we plan to revamp the test bays and the 40” test shop, to make them more user friendly for the testers.

He is currently assisting in writing up a planned preventative maintenance schedule for both test bays and instrumentation apparatus. We are looking to roll out this schedule when the bay upgrades are complete, which will dramatically reduce set up and down time in the test areas.

Sam has come a long way in a short space of time, from someone who had very limited knowledge and no practical experience of electrical engineering; he can now work with minimum supervision on the set up and testing of most valve controls and instrumentation tasks. His work is always to a high standard and he is able to retain information, which makes my job much easier. Apart from the valve side of the business, he has assisted in a lot of work on both single phase, three phase electrical installations including, but not limited to, lighting, test bays, motors, pumps, mobile test rigs and automated projects. He has taken to this without a problem. When Sam finishes his HNC, we will be looking to push him on practically, as well as obtaining the regulation certification to allow him to work safely with confidence and unsupervised in the field of installation and testing.

Sam is keen to learn and is very enthusiastic about his career development, which has recently seen him successfully complete his IPAF (International Powered Access Federation) which allows Sam to do various tasks safely at height, as well as various other training courses to enhance his skills. He has become a reliable team member and will go on to be a real asset to BEL Valves.