At the age of 27 Daniel Parkinson is enjoying a second career ... and a second apprenticeship.
The Longridge man is a passionate advocate of the value of earning while you learn.
The former pupil of Chipping St Mary’s and St Cecilia’s school in Longridge, near Preston, embarked on his first apprenticeship at the age of 16 - in bricklaying.
But his thirst to learn more drove him to return to formal study. He said: “At the age of 19 I put myself through my HNC (Higher National Certificate) in construction at night school”.
After his studies at Preston College he became self employed for two years.
But at the age of 23 he had another turning point and signed up for a second apprenticeship, in quantity surveying with Balfour Beatty.
His career now means he splits his time before working for Balfour Beatty based at the Sellafield nuclear plant three days a week in Cumbria.Then he packs his bag and returns home for a day’s study at UCLan in Preston, before spending a day working from his company’s Warrington offices.
He said: “I’ve been at Sellafield ever since I started my degree apprenticeship. At first it was quite hard to adjust. I was away from all my friends and family but the company had made it easy to slot in and they just support you at every opportunity.”
When he qualifies Daniel sees his future in the nuclear industry which he notes is “ever growing”.
Such has been his success that he was recently selected to take part in an company wide apprenticeship challenge representing the north as one of a small team.
He said: “It started in June and there are four or five separate challenges. It’s an honour to be on the north apprentice team.”
The first saw him stepping outside his work environment to take part in a four day team building challenge with the Brathay Trust in Ambleside
He said: “We had to support each other. We are competing to be the apprentice team of the year.”
Taking pride in his selection Daniel is a passionate advocate of apprenticeships: “For me the key facts are you are basically learning and earning at the same time. So you are getting a good wage whilst also earning a qualification. You are working with experienced people day in day out so it is so much easier to pick up certain things and so much easier to understand what you have to do.”
He believes his company is leading the way "using degree apprenticeships to help young people gain experience and an education to give them the best possible career they can."
He compares being an apprentice with studying at college or university and then starting a new job in the working world and says the apprentice route was his perfect path: “It’s just a completely different experience. It’s perfect for me. It was the right thing because I was 100 per cent certain it was what I wanted to do. I knew if I started an apprenticeship I could just find my feet a bit easier.”
He says his ambition, once he signed up, was clear: “just to get in and learn everything I could."
He added: “Working with experienced people you can take the knowledge off them - for me it’s the best thing.”
In two years Daniel, who has been with Balfour Beatty three years, expects to be fully qualified.
Daniel says he hopes his case also highlights the fact that you don’t need to be 16 to consider an apprenticeship.
He said: “You can start at any age. I had done an apprenticeship before as well. It gave me the drive and experience to go and push myself on to the next one.”
Warming to his theme he stresses businesses need “all sorts of people” especially for complex work demands.
Asked how he decided to change from building to surveying he recalled: “I went on a construction open day back in August 2015. The company was explaining all the different roles.”
The rest for Daniel is history. He had found his niche.
Surveying was the first option that came up and Daniel said: “I knew I wanted to work in construction but didn’t know what., That is also a good thing about working in construction and doing an apprenticeship - there are lots of other things you could easily slot in to and find the right place for you.”
The range of Balfour Beatty apprenticeships include civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, highways maintenance, construction management, business support and administration, IT and software, communications and finance.
The company promises it offers “lots of development opportunities, mentoring and support from across our organisation – as well as the chance to make an impact on the world around you.”
One of Daniel’s next tasks as part of the apprentice challenge is to go in to schools and colleges to talk about his experiences of being an apprentice and why it can be “the right step for a young person to take”.
Finally all the competing teams have to give a presentation.
Although he splits his working life between three counties there is no doubting where he calls home.
He said: “Longridge is definitely home.”
Now there is an extra call on his attention too - he and partner Melanie Hardinge became parents to baby Ronan 17 weeks ago.
He said: “I’ve just had a son and when I come home I want to spend time with him.”
• The Lancashire Skills Hub encourages companies to think about offering apprenticeship opportunitites. See www.lancashireskillshub.co.uk for more information.