Staff Spotlight: Andrew Cairns, Apprentice Engineer

In the second of two Q&As to mark National Apprenticeship Week, we caught up with Andrew Cairns, who is an Apprentice Engineer with the company.

You can read the other Q&A with Apprentice Management Accountant Ryan Oliver HERE.

Here, Andrew chats about why his desire to do something practical in his career led him to applying for the apprenticeship, how his time has been divided between work and college to date and what skills he’s learned during his two-and-a-half years with the company so far.

Hi Andrew. Could you start by telling us what apprenticeship you’re doing?

I’m doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Engineering Maintenance and my job title here at Simpsons Malt is Apprentice Engineer.

What first attracted you to the apprenticeship in the first place?

Well, I always knew that I wanted to do something practical in my job, although this apprenticeship was something completely different to anything I’d ever done before – at school you never really had the chance to do anything like this. So, when this opportunity for an engineering apprenticeship came up, I was definitely interested.

I live in Berwick so it’s a local company to me, while my dad also works here – albeit in the agricultural division of the business. So, through him, I knew it was a good business to work for and when I found out my application was successful, I was delighted. I started in August 2018 and I’ve loved my time here so far.

What does a standard working day or week look like to you?

Well, in my first year, there was a six-month solid block when I was down at college in Newcastle. So, I was on-site for the first month, then from September to March I was at college. After that, I was at college one day a week for the rest of my first year and second year. Now I’m in my third year, it’s all on-site, and that’ll be the same in my fourth year too.

I was initially employed to be at Craigswalls (our Scottish Borders grain store 12 miles from our Tweed Valley Maltings) and I’ve spent quite a bit of my time over there. However, more recently, I’ve been spending time at Berwick and learning more from the electrical guys. This is so my line of work becomes more focused as, by the end of my apprenticeship, I’m hopefully going to be an electrical engineer.

What skills have you developed and what qualifications have earned during your time with the company so far?

I’ve got a Level 3 BTEC in Engineering and right now I’m working towards an NVQ. Then there’s a possibility of my going for an HNC as well.

As for other on-site skills, I’ve developed a lot of practical ability with tools and increased my knowledge on electrics that I certainly didn’t have when I joined. More widely, I’ve also learned how everything works and how the company operates. For example, when I was out at Craigswalls, I found out that there’s so much more to the business than just the malting process and how important other aspects, such as barley storage, are.

Has your development been impacted by COVID-19 at all?

The end of my course was impacted, so I didn’t get to finish it off. However, because I completed quite a lot of it prior to the deadlines, I was still able to get my grade of Merit Merit for the BTEC.

Since then, nothing has really been impacted for me because I’ve been working on-site and there’s no way I can work from home. So, apart from some modifications in how we work through the company’s COVID-19 protocols, including two-metre social distancing at all times, the wearing of face masks and regular sanitiser use, nothing has really changed for my job and on-site training and development.

Looking ahead, what are your hopes for the future?

As far as I’m aware, once I’ve finished my apprenticeship, I’ll have to have a job interview if there are openings at that time. I’m on a four-year contract at the moment to cover the duration of the apprenticeship and, if the jobs are available and they want to employ me, I’ll become a fully-fledged electrical engineer with the company.

In my time here to date, I’ve loved it and feel like I’m learning and progressing all of the time, so if the opportunity arose after four years where I could become an electrical engineer here, that would be ideal.

Would you like to work for Simpsons Malt? Check out our Careers page HERE for more information.