Debt-free Degree for Apprentice Dan
Essex soft drinks factory engineer Dan Turner has garnered an impressive list of qualifications in the last few years. Especially for someone whose original goal of working in the motor industry – reflecting an early passion for cars.
Dan got the required grades in maths and science, but was scuppered by a D grade in English. But thanks to an Apprenticeship with Britvic, Dan was able to complete a degree in Manufacturing Engineering in 2010. A mix of on-the-job training and classroom study at Dagenham’s Centre of Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence has been an integral part of Dan’s Apprenticeship training supported throughout by his employer.
“I am so pleased I studied when I needed to because I am definitely getting the rewards now,” says Dan.
His success in the last few years – Dan picked up a GNVQ, BTEC national certificate and NVQs en route to his degree – provides hope and inspiration to young people still looking for a worthwhile career against the backdrop of a challenging employment market and concerns about the affordability of post-18 education.
Dan’s Big Break
Dan’s big break came about with the help of Gateway To Industry – a scheme that introduced young people to a career in engineering - which helped Dan gain an intermediate GNVQ in engineering and introduced him to new opportunities through work-based placements. One of those, at Britvic Soft Drinks, proved an eye-opener. And a life-changer – car making crossed off in favour of a rewarding career in soft drink manufacturing.
“I had never considered a career in the food and drinks industry,” says Dan. “I thought of it as an industry with no technical challenges – purely manual labour and a hairnet!”
What he found could hardly have been more different. “High levels of automation are used in the manufacturing processes,” he says. “This requires highly skilled operators and engineers. During the placement, I was told about the Britvic apprenticeship programme and how the company would support my development as far as I wanted to take it.”
Dan’s the Man who made it in Dagenham
“Eight years on and I haven’t been disappointed. I have had full support all the way through my apprenticeship – right up to completion of my degree.”
It does not end there.
Dan recently completed a secondment as a production team leader – “trying to get the best out of people and drive performance”.
He has also been involved in projects such as continuous improvement, machine upgrades and installations, and energy efficiency enhancement. Just one of those is reckoned to have saved Britvic £100,000 through reductions in the amounts of materials and packaging used.
And who could be better than someone like Dan to act as a mentor to apprentices now following in his footsteps? “Once you have completed your apprenticeship you can really start to understand the opportunities that are out there.”
These new apprentices are joining a sector that – unlike some parts of British industry - is in high demand and continuing to invest in both its machinery and its people.
“I think Britvic benefits by having engineers trained in the Britvic way of thinking – always looking for ways to improve things,” says Dan. “My degree involved a project on one of our packaging machines which looked at its changeability and reliability. That was very successful - resulting in a 20 per cent increase in reliability.”
There is also enormous satisfaction, Dan adds, from seeing the products you have worked on sitting on supermarket shelves.
“If I had followed my original plan and spent five years at university, then I would have come away with the same qualifications – plus debts and without the five years of practical experience that I have gained.”
Many people might envy both the success that Dan has enjoyed in the last few years and the array of further opportunities now opening up to him.
“Where I want to go is up to me but I do quite fancy a leadership role sometime in the future. I am also thinking about project management,” says Dan.
But whatever new direction Dan chooses to take, it will still be in the food and drink industry. These days, cars are something to think about after he has finished work.