Wisbech college boss goes back to the floor

College of West Anglia's head of finance Neil Harries (right) goes back to the floor at SD Components Wisbech, with engineering apprentice Aaron Davey (left).

College of West Anglia's head of finance Neil Harries (right) goes back to the floor at SD Components Wisbech, with engineering apprentice Aaron Davey (left).

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A Wisbech company welcomed a new recruit to the ranks of its apprentices when a college leader swapped his office for life as a welder.

College of West Anglia’s head of finance Neil Harries replaced his suit for overalls when he went back to the floor to work alongside apprentices at engineering firm SB Components.

The initiative coincided with National Apprenticeship Week and traditionally sees several senior managers working alongside students who are pursuing the college’s apprenticeship programmes.

Mr Harries said: “For someone who works on the support side of the college, my ‘back to the floor’ visit was a great opportunity to see what apprenticeships are all about and I really enjoyed the experience.”

Mr Harries spent the day working alongside welding apprentice Aaron Davey, 16, who is currently working towards an intermediate level apprentice in Improving Operational Performance.

Aaron said: “I like the fact I am working and producing materials rather than just doing theory work.

“This placement is helping me to develop from an apprentice into a fully-trained engineer and is also helping me with other life skills, such as managing money, as I am getting a wage. I’m hoping to progress to fabrication next, that’s the aim.”

Neil Butterfield, workshop manager at SB Components, said: “It is positive to know that young people are being given a chance to develop skills and gain a qualification in engineering. This also supports the ongoing development of engineering in the local area.

“The ‘back to the floor’ programme is a good idea because a member of the senior management team comes on site to see the work the apprentice does. They also get the opportunity to test their own skills by ‘having a go’ with the students supervising them.”

Mr Butterfield also gave Mr Harries a tour of SB Components, which has grown to become one of the industry leaders in bespoke adaptions for commercial vehicles.

The company, based in Enterprise Way, works with the college’s engineering department to help young people develop a career in engineering.

There are currently three aluminium welders and one press brake operative on the course.