• 4 March 2019

Building Services Apprenticeship

Alexandro was offered an apprenticeship with our building services team in Nottingham after completing two-weeks work experience whilst studying for his A-Levels. Here, he tells us how a gentle nudge in the right direction opened the door to a career opportunity he had never considered before.

To be completely honest, when I was younger I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. I would even say I am still figuring those questions out today! Before I started my apprenticeship, I had focused so hard on achieving my A-Levels in chemistry, biology and business studies without any real career path set out. Anything I did consider changed month to month like a child in a sweet shop; from a pharmacist to a chemical engineer, and even a professional wrestler…I had no direction.

I was working part-time making coffees and sandwiches at a delicatessen called The Tall Frog in the Nottingham area and, with no real plan, my older brother (and mentor) told me; “Get into the construction industry, the opportunities are never lacking”. With this, and the ‘it works if you work it’ philosophy, an opportunity came my way in the form of work experience with Waterman’s building services team. I started talking to a regular customer at The Tall Frog who offered some advice on a potential opportunity for work experience. He put me in contact with the director I now work for and I realise how networking is such an integral part of this industry.

Discovering engineering

I had no idea what building services engineering was really about, likening it to something out of the ‘The Dark Arts’ from Harry Potter. I didn’t know it existed, which in hindsight is surprising to say when every building we see would be mere shells without these engineers. Taking on work experience allowed me to learn so much more about this industry, as well as being part of a team that were willing to share their knowledge and involve me in what was (and still seems like) an art. So, I took the opportunity and familiarised myself with industry software like AutoCAD, Revit and IES (to name a few), simply thinking it would look fantastic on my personal statement. Little did I know that this would be sowing the seeds for another opportunity to come my way – an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering!

I started officially working with Waterman as an apprentice in September 2017. With ten building services engineers in the team, everyone has been a mentor to me in some way, not forgetting my colleagues in civils, infrastructure and transport who really made me feel a part of the office as well. With all their knowledge and experience, my aim was (and still is) to soak up everything they’re willing to teach me.

Learning the ropes

A lot of my time has been focused on the presentation of the ‘product’ we are effectively selling, meaning the quality and standard of the drawings is an essential part of the process. For example, when I’ve been working on the ADA College drawings, there is so much to consider; getting the combination of eligibility right, having a clear understanding of the building, good presentation and an understanding of time to meet deadlines. From advice given and mistakes made, the intricacies of the detail that is paid to drawings has gained my respect.

With that said, the most rewarding part of my job must be the continual opportunity to learn new skills whilst being able to test myself. Throughout my apprenticeship so far, I have gained confidence within my capabilities. This has then been sustained by being given more tasks with increased difficulty, such as organising CPDs which helps in building relationships with suppliers and other industry professionals.

As someone who has come from an unrelated academic background, it has been an amazing experience to see a designer’s role in the everyday life of the construction industry, as well as the impact this has on the people who live in these buildings across the world. It has opened my eyes to the possibilities of engineering and I have a lot to learn in my current role as an apprentice. I am eager to continue achieving my goals and make new ones along the way, hopefully progressing within my career to become a Chartered mechanical engineer. Until then, I will enjoy the journey.

Alexandro Justin

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