Making it count04 October 2022

Fraikin apprentice Warrington depot Fraikin apprentice Gage Walsh at Warrington depot

A happy apprentice narrowly avoided falling into an office job for the wrong reasons. Later, unable to get a placement in lockdown, he nearly switched to surveying. Despite it all, he’s since found a place as a valued member of the team at Fraikin’s Warrington depot

Second-year engineering apprentice Gage Walsh nearly became an accountant. Just before starting at college, he spent three months doing accountancy work experience. He was all ready to start a course of further maths, economics and business studies. But at the last minute – a week before recruitment – he switched to a BTEC engineering course.

Looking back on it, Walsh says he was attracted to accounting for the money rather than the work – and his parents pointed out how he was always working to make and fix things. He recalls: “I was always messing about in my grandad’s garage. He would work on his own cars, and would always have little bits. It was the same with dad; he maintained everything in the house, and built his own garage and summerhouse. I built them with him. That’s where I get my engineering mindset.”

Equally, it was a family decision for him to take a general engineering qualification rather than jumping into the truck trade – he would be qualified to work in another sector if his preferred career path of commercial vehicles (which attracted because they are “bigger, harder to work on and more to them”) didn’t work out as expected.

The course, at Pendleton Sixth Form College in Salford, included six-month stints in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, aeronautical engineering and metalwork and fabrication. Walsh says that it offered both practical skills and an introduction to the job market. “It was a good starting point,” he summarises.

Unluckily, Walsh finished in spring 2020 – in lockdown. “In the summer break, I applied for a lot of apprenticeships, and got to the final round at two dealerships, but both said they weren’t hiring apprentices because of COVID.” At that time, many engineering apprentices had been placed on furlough. “It was a difficult few months. I actually started applying for degree apprenticeships in chartered surveying; I even applied to GCHQ at one point for cybersecurity. I needed other options, because I was getting fed up with everything.”

Fortunately, an application to Fraikin’s Warrington depot bore fruit, and Walsh began work there in January 2021.

“When I started, there was a nice warm welcome; it was friendly. The foreman and Adam [Standish] – the operations manager and my mentor – figured out what I could do, and what I couldn’t do; they were testing my ability. Because of my engineering qualification I could already work with wire and weld.”

He says that one of the big pluses of working for a rental firm is the sheer variety. “I see a lot of different vehicles, and I get a chance to work on big jobs. I prefer that to a [formal learning] structure. The work is still structured; I get jobs that I need to complete to prove my competence, and I still do other jobs. I see a wide range of vehicles; more than one brand. I like not doing the same thing every day. I like not knowing what I might be doing next.”

Supported by his team and with tutoring at St Helens College, he feels a part of the place. “Now I feel well-regarded in the workshop. I feel I am known to be able to help out. I can be approached to give a hand; people have seen my abilities grow. I feel like I’m in place. I like to be in work, and involved. I feel my opinions are heard, like when they are moving the workshop around. I have a voice.”

Operations Engineer

Related Companies
Fraikin Ltd

This material is protected by MA Business copyright
See Terms and Conditions.
One-off usage is permitted but bulk copying is not.
For multiple copies contact the sales team.