Huge career opportunities make apprenticeships a rewarding experience

3 min read


Josh Barber, 2016 IET Apprentice of the Year


To mark National Apprenticeship Week, Josh Barber explains why the advantage of entering an engineering apprenticeship should not be overlooked

Last November, I was honoured to be named Apprentice of the Year 2016 by the Institution of Engineering and Technology in recognition of my work at ABB, having been nominated for the award by my employer.

My personal apprenticeship journey began with a variety of work experience placements, which then lead to a summer placement in an engineering company where I could apply my interest in design. I attended open days both at universities and companies and after hearing about the type of work and projects they engage in, I knew it was where I wanted my career to start.

Mentors are always available to help with studies


Work experience matters

The combination of on-the-job experience, study and financial support throughout was appealing to me, as was the opportunity to work for a global company such as ABB. I knew this would provide a platform for my career that university alone simply couldn’t offer.

I was chosen as IET Apprentice of the Year from a shortlist of three for my work on a client’s wind energy project. This gave me an opportunity to work with experienced engineers and take design ownership of a project. My cost-saving redesign for a supplies pillar-marshalling kiosk layout to improve safety, efficiency and reduce installation errors won approval from senior engineers, my supervisors and ABB’s customers, It has now been adopted by the company as standard.

I am lucky that the team I worked with spend a lot of time training and supporting the apprentices to develop us to the best of our abilities.

Work and study

It’s not always easy juggling work with study and I don’t have a lot of free time, but I know that if I am having any problems with my studies then there is a team of engineers within ABB who are more than willing to help.

I am very passionate about what I do and equally passionate about getting the next generation into engineering. To anyone interested in an engineering career, I would say get some good work experience and if they are thinking about university, don’t write off an apprenticeship because where else can you get hands-on job training, support with your studies and good career prospects?

I get as involved as I can in promoting engineering as a career choice to young people. In ABB’s scheme, apprentices have the opportunity to develop their potential for leadership by volunteering at career days and schools outreach projects. This was important as the IET judges also took into account my work to encourage other young people into engineering careers.

I can honestly say I wouldn’t have achieved this without the support from my colleagues and supervisors at ABB who gave me the opportunity and the confidence to deliver the work.

Winning this award goes to show what you can achieve as an apprentice, learning engineering skills within a business and making a difference to it.

Josh Barber is one of eight young professionals who graduated from ABB Power Grids’ four-year apprentice scheme in October 2016. During his time on the scheme, Josh achieved a HNC and BTEC Level 3 with double distinction in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. He is an ambassador for ABB’s Schools Support Programme, coordinates industry days and volunteers at events and career days to encourage other young people into engineering careers.

The Apprentice and Technician Awards are part of the IET’s Achievement Awards and Scholarships programme, which each year provides over £1m in awards, prizes and scholarships to celebrate excellence and research in the sector and encourage the next generation of engineers and technicians.

The IET Apprentice of the Year Awards 2017 are open for entries now. See IET Apprentice of the Year award for more information.

The IET Engineering Horizons Bursary scheme is designed to support talented individuals facing personal obstacles or financial hardship to complete their training as an apprentice with a package of financial support and membership of the IET.

To find out more information about the Horizons Bursary scheme or to make an application, visit the IET Horizons Bursary website