Going Outward Bound with the Thales Apprentices

apprentices round 1

In November 2013, 20 Thales Apprentices from across the UK, at all stages of their apprenticeship, participated in a hugely successful training programme in the Lake District. Launched in conjunction with The Outward Bound Trust and Thales Learning & Development, the purpose of this programme was to improve performance in the workplace by enhancing the apprentices’ personal and team skills, with specific focus on building a support network with peers.

Following the programme we interviewed four apprentices – Bradley, William, Declan and Christopher along with Nick Jordan, Management, Leadership & Development Consultant and Joanne Calver, Key Account Manager to find out exactly what they thought about their week of rock climbing, orienteering and mountaineering.

“I managed to survive a whole week without internet and TV!” said William, a 4th year apprentice when reflecting on the week.

“Five of us opted for the early morning wakeup call which involved jumping into a lake at 7:30am. Very cold is an understatement!” said Christopher, a 3rd year apprentice.

For Nick Jordan, this has been a project 14 months in the making and one that he has been really looking forward to seeing the outcomes of. “These five days have been so incredibly rewarding,” said Nick. “I organised this programme with the intent of not only improving the skill set of our apprentices, but also to ensure they set up a network in which they could share valuable experiences and learn from one another in the future.”

Bradley, an 18 year old apprentice only three months into the programme, said, “On the Thursday evening we had the opportunity to network with Directors and Senior Engineers. They gave me tips and advice on my presentation skills which was invaluable and also it showed me that really they’re just people and not unapproachable as I previously thought.”

Nick continued, “It was fantastic to see apprentices from Glasgow and Crawley who hadn’t met each other before intelligently working together in pressurised circumstances and discovering skills many of them weren’t even aware they had. They came out of the experience with real fire in their bellies and enthusiastic to improve themselves further. They felt empowered and valued as employees and ready to tackle more responsibilities within their role.” This is a reflection that all apprentices voiced when interviewed.

“I was really shy before but now I feel like I’ve developed my skills and am able to talk to people more confidently” said Bradley. “I want to be a Programme Manager so I’m looking forward to more development programmes to increase my skills and move higher within the business.”

Account Manager Joanne Calver commented: “It was evident that throughout their week of challenge after challenge they had built a stronger and slicker understanding of the skills and behaviours that were required to accomplish any team-based tasks they would be faced with in the future at Thales. I definitely saw a new found confidence and ability in their planning, problem solving skills and ability to work effectively as a team.”

When discussing their favourite part of the programme, Declan said, “It was great to work as part of a team and learn to put your trust in other people. I learnt how to listen and appreciate each individual in a team. Everyone has their own skill set.”

Christopher also commented, “I think I learnt the ability to listen to people better and we definitely developed as a team.”

William continued, “It showed me that others, regardless of age, are capable as leaders.”“This is a large investment in apprentices and it’s really made me feel good about my position and future with Thales,” said William. “Before the programme I’d never spoken to even the other Crawley apprentices but now we’re meeting up for tea breaks and arranging a night out!”

“It’s good to see them staying in contact and I look forward to seeing a tighter knit group at the next part of the programme,” finished Nick.

Engineering is well known among industries for offering apprenticeships and a recent analysis of their financial worth by Barclays has revealed that if UK employers increased this type of training they could boost the British economy by £4.4bn a year. Thales is maximising its contribution by ensuring its apprentices have the best pathways available to them to develop their talent. As a business we are now a member company of The 5% Club, whose aim is to build Britain’s long term prosperity through a focus on creating momentum behind the recruitment of apprentices and graduates into the UK workforce. Victor Chavez, CEO of Thales UK, said: “Organisations that do not invest in the next generation are not only failing to secure their own future, they are also failing in their responsibility to the young people of the UK. For Thales to remain at the forefront of the UK’s engineering and technology projects, and more broadly for the UK to have the right level of engineering and technical skills to meet future global demand, we must ensure we have excellent training and development programmes in place.” Victor continued, “Our membership of The 5% Club demonstrates Thales Group’s long-term commitment to training and Thales UK’s commitment to the young people of the UK.”

The success of this first course is leading Thales Learning & Development to plan regular programmes with the Outward Bound Trust for future apprentice intakes which is something Thales UK strongly supports. This support was reinforced at the 2014 Thales UK HR Conference where Nick Jordan was presented with an award by Kathy Jenkins, VP Human Resources UK & International for his hard work, dedication and passion for developing the Thales UK Apprentices.

As a closing question before the apprentices left we asked whether they thought the apprenticeship overall was better than college Bradley replied: “Yes, I’m learning far more here than I would at college.”

For more information about the rise of apprenticeships, read issue 2 of Enhance L&D magazine.