Where are they now?

We recently asked some of our former apprentices – where are you now? If you’re considering an apprenticeship, read on to hear from people who have been there and done it and gone on to great things…


Mark WithycombeWho? Mark Withycombe

Age? 39

Apprenticeship: In 1995 I became an advanced apprentice Toolmaker and Precision Engineer. I achieved a BTec National and ONC in Mechanical Engineering at Newcastle Tool And Gauge.

Why an apprenticeship? I wanted to leave school at 16 and getting a career in a skilled trade seemed like a good option. I stayed with the company after my apprenticeship and focused on CNC milling. I then developed more skills using CAD/CAM and producing programmes offline. I’m still with the same company now and enjoying a great career.

Best thing about being an apprentice? I gained engineering knowledge and skills and experience of the real world. Being an apprentice also improved my self confidence.

Where are you now? Production engineer at Newcastle Tool And Gauge.

What does your job involve? I do CAD/CAM programming, quotations and order processing. I also assist in the running of QM and EMS.

Best thing about your job? We are sub-contractors and we manufacture a wide variety of parts for different industries. As technology moves forward, we are always learning which is satisfying.

Any advice for want-to-be apprentices? If you are prepared to work hard, you will be rewarded. Companies are always looking for good people. A good, positive attitude is very important.


Maria WrightWho? Maria Wright

Age? 36

Apprenticeship: I did a Level 3 Business Administration Apprenticeship in 1999 at electrical engineering company, Electrospec.

Why an apprenticeship? I wasn’t a high achiever at school. When I left I wanted to find the best opportunity I could that would allow me to learn new skills and give me the best chance at having a good career.

Best thing about being an apprentice? I got work experience and a chance to earn my own money. It also gave me opportunities to progress on to managerial roles which have served me well in running my own businesses, and giving support to others. After my apprenticeship I went on to work in a variety of roles. I then qualified as a trainer and therapist.

Where are you now? I’m director and joint owner of three businesses, PWA Unlimited, Change U and Inspiring121. I’m a business consultant, neuro linguistic programming trainer and hypotherapist.

What does your job involve? I help companies and people improve the way they run their businesses or live their lives! No two days are ever the same. I work on some very interesting challenges, let’s put it that way.

Best thing about your job? I love working alongside people on their journey of change and supporting them, whether it is in business or in their personal lives, and families.

Any advice for want-to-be apprentices? Take all the opportunities to learn and grow that you can. If I can do it, believe me, you can too. For me, an apprenticeship set me up for life – it gave me the foundations upon which to build my career. Above all else, work hard! It will get you noticed and create more opportunities for you.


James CuttingWho? James Cutting

Age? 30

Apprenticeship: I did a Level 3 Business Administration Apprenticeship in 1998 at Domnick Hunter on the Team Valley.

Why an apprenticeship? I’m not a classroom type of person (as my old teachers will tell you!). I was eager to work in the real world and I thought the fastest way for me to achieve this was to start an apprenticeship – it was the best decision I ever made.

Best thing about being an apprentice? The most valuable thing I gained from the apprenticeship was how to learn outside the classroom. None of us are born with all the knowledge and skills we require to succeed in life – my apprenticeship provided me with those. It gave me an environment where I could learn and develop into the person I’ve become.

I started my apprenticeship when I was 16 and I quickly became an established member of the export sales team. I started travelling with work when I was 19 and went on to travel extensively around Europe, Asia and North America. I spent 10 years in total at Domnick Hunter/Parker Hannifin.

Where are you now? In 2008 I relocated from Gateshead to Dubai and joined Gardner Denver/CompAir Middle East.

What does your job involve? I’m responsible for the aftermarket sales and support. I have a €5million budget across 29 countries. My main role is to develop sales at all of our 40 distributors, whilst trying to gain a presence in markets we do not currently operate in.

Best thing about your job? I get the opportunity to travel the world, meet new people and experience new cultures. We have a small, dynamic team who all want to succeed and we have fun trying to achieve our goals.

Any advice for want-to-be apprentices? Things are tough at the moment in the UK however apprenticeships appear to be the one ray of light for young people. My advice would be to seize the opportunity; rewards are there for young people who want to work. When I completed my apprenticeship I never thought I would be in the position I am now and living in the middle east. Hard work and good support has allowed me to achieve these goals.


Lee KellyWho? Lee Kelly

Age? 27

Apprenticeship: I became a fully qualified accounting technician in 2008 after completing an AAT qualification whilst working for manufacturing company, DUCO Ltd.

Why an apprenticeship? I went to university for a year to study economics – I was disinterested and wanted to earn money but I also still wanted to learn. I had heard a lot of good things about the AAT qualification and my employer put me through it with Access Training.

After I finished my AAT I was promoted from a cost controller to a project cost controller. I then started my CIMA (Chartered Institute Management Accounts) qualification and I’m nearly finished my last level before I qualify. This will lead to a further promotion.

Best thing about being an apprentice? It gave me a fantastic career path in a great company.

Where are you now? Manufacturing performance controller at DUCO Ltd.

What does your job involve? I monitor how well the factory performs between budget and actual spend. I present variance analysis and progress on Key Performance Indicators to management. I also support two young apprentices to develop their skills and knowledge.

Best thing about your job? I like investigating the differences between budget and actual cost from manufacturing – I enjoy looking into the finer detail.

Any advice for want-to-be apprentices? I would recommend any young person to consider an apprenticeship. I feel this is the best route when leaving school as you are more than likely to get employment at the end of it because you have experience and qualifications.