41 year old apprentice Stephen Mc Cue is the works planner for the asset management team at MerseyTravel.

Stephen’s role is to manage all of the planned and reactive maintenance work across all of the bus stations, tunnels, the ferries and all aspects of MerseyTravel’s public transport service. This also includes managing a 24/7 service that is supported by 5 teams of staff that includes electricians, systems engineers, mechanical fitters, plumbers, joiners and multi skilled operatives. Stephen has been in this position for 5 years and 15 months ago enrolled on to the ILM L3 Management apprenticeship programme. This is Stephen’s first apprenticeship having left school at 16 with few qualifications wanting to join the armed forces for which he served for 20 years.

What was it that initially led Stephen to enrolling on to an apprenticeship programme?

“I completed a lot of courses that were military based when I was with the army which gave me lots of experience, knowledge and skills. However, what I never had was a qualification and I had pretty much hit a glass ceiling within my current role. Every role that I had looked at to progress required formal qualifications.

“I discussed the matter with my line management and wanted to know how I could progress from this point forward. I wanted to do a management style course and at the same time as having the discussions the ILM apprenticeship had become available and so I enrolled.

“I have been enrolled on to the programme for 15 months now and am due to finish in the summer.

“The apprenticeship goes hand in hand with my job and when completed it will provide me with a diploma. It’s great the fact that I can apply what I am doing in order to achieve that because had it been a case of attending a classroom environment to complete the diploma I probably wouldn’t  have done it. It gives me the confidence to know that I’m doing the right thing as well as providing me with the skills to consider approaching or dealing with things in a different way altogether.”

Having been on the apprenticeship programme for over a year, has Stephen’s perception of apprenticeships changed in that time?

“I didn’t know you could do adult apprenticeships so that has changed my opinion and opened my eyes really.

“Apprenticeships for young people leaving school has also changed my opinions as I work with young apprentices who are part of the asset management team. I work with them and introduce them to new aspects of the role. One perception is that apprentices follow workers around and carry their tools and make cups of tea etc but it’s not like that at all. It is guided quality learning and this can clearly be seen as they are constantly working towards their goals and always learning from the tradesmen.

“The apprentices we have as part of our team are an enthusiastic and intelligent group, they are very hands on and will do well at what they are learning to do. They have a clear route ahead of them and because of that they can understand why they are doing what it is they are doing in order to succeed.”

With Stephen fast approaching the conclusion of his apprenticeship, has he given consideration as to what might be next?

“When in the armed forces you would always be undertaking new courses and extending your learning and skills and I’ve always had an appetite to do that. I was also an instructor so I was delivering courses as well as attending them. I’ve always had an appetite for education and bettering myself is something I’ve always wanted to do. I think that once I have finished the apprenticeship and taken stock of where I am in my professional life then I will look at what’s next or what skills gap needs to be filled. I would like to do the level 5 management apprenticeship at some point but I want it to be a structured approach that informs that.”

What advice would Stephen share with others looking at the apprenticeship route?

“The first thing would be to make sure that it’s something they are interested in as there is little point pursuing something that they don’t enjoy as this may well be the rest of their lives. Do plenty of research and again make sure that its right for them and something that they want to do.

An apprenticeship is not just about attendance, it’s not a gift, its lots of hard work as its learning whilst doing a full time job and there has to be enjoyment there.”