Chris Blair

Mentoring apprentices

Having begun his career in plumbing as an apprentice, Chris is giving back by mentoring the next generation of plumbers at HomeServe.

When I was younger I spent most of my holidays and weekends helping my dad who is a plumbing and heating engineer just so that I could get some experience. Inspired by my dad I officially got into plumbing through a time served apprenticeship scheme. A time served apprenticeship scheme is an apprenticeship that is structured through a college or accredited institution that provides a two or three year programme with a little time in college and the rest out on the job.

As part of my apprenticeship I was assigned a mentor who had also gone through a time served apprenticeship. I found the structure of my apprenticeship really helpful. The combined generations worth of skills, techniques and (tricks of the trade) passed down to me whilst on site are simply things that are not readily taught in a college based environment. This in itself is what made me volunteer to become a mentor at HomeServe.

The role of a mentor is to teach, train and develop and the best part of it all is seeing the transformation of a young person as they come straight out of school, from not even knowing what a spanner or a washer is, to then see them develop into competent engineers is really rewarding.

When my current apprentice Sam started working with me, he swore he would never work in drainage. Every time we carried out a drainage job it took him an entire day to recover, he struggled with his lunch and felt queasy for hours. Six months in, he’s now converted and much to his surprise finds drainage jobs a lot easier than plumbing work. It's really great to see the development and progress Sam has made and it's nice to know my knowledge and expertise is being passed down to the next generation.

I think the opportunity our apprentices have been given is possibly a once in a lifetime chance. Being mentored by competent, fully qualified engineers, attending a college rated as 'outstanding' by Ofsted, with the prospect of becoming an engineer working at one of the UK's leading plumbing and drainage companies is special. 

If you’re looking to apply for an apprenticeship, the important thing is to make sure you’re doing it for the right reason. Not for money, not for the security of a guaranteed job but because you want to get into something as a career. Apprenticeships require a lot of effort on the apprentices part and if you don’t put the time or effort in yourself, you won’t reap the benefits. It will be hard work but you get out of it what you put into it.