04/09/2013 11:02 BST

Apprentice Of The Week: Craig Freeman, Highways Maintenance Operative With Amey

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Introducing this week’s apprentice..

Name: Craig Freeman

Job Title: Highways maintenance operative

Employer: Amey

Apprenticeship/training: NVQ2 diploma in highways maintenance and excavation then on to NVQ 3 in occupational work supervision

What's a typical day like for you?

Working as a highways maintenance operative at Amey, no two days are the same. I normally start work at 6am which some people would think is quite an early start, however I enjoy being able to get into work early and the timings work for me. I normally work a shift pattern on the motorway network carrying out maintenance jobs to barriers or helping to repair potholes, but more recently I have been given the opportunity to work in the office learning about how the contract is run and how the costs are allocated to jobs. One day I can be in the office ensuring jobs are booked correctly, other days I am out on site driving HGVs!

What has been the most memorable day of your apprenticeship so far?

It has to be meeting HRH Prince Edward at St James palace after being only one of two apprentices in the company to be asked to attend. Not many people get to personally meet the royal family and I didn’t think I would have the chance to either, however it was a great day and I got to share my experiences about being an apprentice, with people who were interested in signing up to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

craig freeman

Craig meeting Prince Edward

Why did you decide to become an apprentice?

I left college after a year as I didn’t really enjoy classroom based learning and ended up in a job where there were limited prospects. I knew that even though I hadn’t completed college I wanted to go somewhere where I could learn and where there were opportunities to develop. An apprenticeship seemed like the perfect opportunity to do this. I never thought I would end up working in this type of sector, however the apprenticeship at Amey looked interesting and varied - I applied for the job, got it and haven’t looked back since.

What are the best things about being an apprentice?

The best thing about being an apprentice is gaining qualifications and real life on the job experience whilst working and earning money. There is also the opportunity to do additional qualifications and I have recently been chosen to do the NVQ 3.

What are the best things about working in the industry you work in?

The best thing about working in this industry is being able to work outside all day. Don’t get me wrong it does get cold on the side of the motorway especially in winter, but the work we do is rewarding and I much prefer it to sitting at a computer all day.

What's the most surprising thing you've learnt during your apprenticeship?

Developing my leadership skills. As an apprentice you do not expect to be given the opportunity to learn about leadership, however at Amey all apprentices are enrolled on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award and as part of this we spent a day talking about different leadership styles and how we can develop our own individual leadership skills. We then got to put this into practice on our expedition.

What would you say to someone thinking about applying for an apprenticeship?

I would say go for it, it’s a great way to earn whilst you learn. There are lots of different apprenticeship opportunities out there so if you aren’t sure about what to do or you don’t really like the idea of two years of college it is a great alternative.

What do you think are the biggest myths about apprenticeships?

That you start at the bottom and stay there. I thought I’d be doing rubbish jobs however the structure of the Apprenticeship scheme at Amey meant that my skills were developed quickly which allowed me to easily become part of the team. The rest of the guys out on site are also really friendly and are always introducing me to new and challenging jobs to help me develop.

What do you expect to be doing in 10 years time?

I hope to be still working and I would like to progress up the ladder maybe into a managerial role. There are however lots of opportunities at Amey and I am gaining new qualifications every day.

Are you happy you chose an apprenticeship instead of considering university?

Yes. I didn’t enjoy classroom learning very much so an apprenticeship has given me the opportunity to build a career using a different route which I have really enjoyed.

What advice would you give someone leaving school or college now?

Look at all the options of what’s out there, don’t just do the same as your friends. At the time it is easy to do what everyone else is doing but you may regret it later. There are lots of different routes to gaining a career so research them, where college and university may be right for someone, an apprenticeship may suit others.

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