I went to Ballymena Academy and was one of those people who really enjoyed school. It all ended quite abruptly due to Covid–19 and the subsequent lockdown but I have very fond memories of the Academy.
It was in sixth year that I started to look into becoming an apprentice. My brother’s girlfriend was doing an apprenticeship so that gave me the idea and I started doing my own research. That’s how I found out about Workplus. There was one day in careers class when we had to go round and say what we were planning to apply for, and I said an apprenticeship in engineering.
I remember my careers teacher being surprised, saying “Are you sure?”
I was being predicted good ‘A’ Level results and I suspect she expected me to go into full–time Higher Education. She kept me back at the end of class to ask me more. When I explained to her that this apprenticeship meant earning a Masters degree while also getting a job, she was impressed and starting telling other people about it.
My parents, who are always so supportive, had a similar journey. They were initially confused when I told them I was thinking about an apprenticeship. It prompted them to do their own research and they realised it was a ‘no–brainer’ – they’re now so happy with what I’m doing.
When I received my offer from Tetra Tech (which was then WYG), it was a moment of real relief and I was so chuffed. It felt like a great achievement and my hard work had paid off. Getting started has been exciting. I’ve enjoyed getting to know people at the company and learning with them. Tuesday is my uni day.
I have a great mentor – Steve Alford – who looks at what modules I have coming up and moves me around the company accordingly. For example, I have a Mathematics and an Engineering Mechanics module coming up and so I’m going to spend 6 months with the structures team. I’m moving around departments to see how everything works and gain a wider perspective of the industry.
“I go to work every day and am on a generous wage.”
I like having my own responsibilities and have a real sense of satisfaction about what I’m doing. The practical and academic is learnt hand–in–hand – which is a great way to learn. The two working in tandem helps put the pieces together and makes the course so enjoyable.
There is definitely a change in the air around apprenticeships. There is an old–fashioned idea of apprenticeships which is not as prevalent now. This is a new way of doing things; you get your degree, get paid and gain experience. I think people are really picking up on that now.
Sometimes I’m asked if I feel I’m missing out by not being at university full–time. I don’t think I am. I play rugby for Ballymena Rugby Club, train twice a week with a match at the weekends and enjoy socialising with friends.
I would 100% recommend the Workplus apprenticeship scheme to anyone!
Learn more and see a video of Paul by searching 'Paul Gocher Workplus' in Google.