Owen Vanderhoven, apprentice at Vector Aerospace reflects on his journey into an aerospace apprenticeship

Leaving school in 2003, the world was at my feet. The economy was thriving, and the advice given at this stage was to “follow your dream” without a care of what the future would bring.

Friends of mine left school and college to pursue travelling aspirations, whilst others decided to go to university to learn politics or social behaviours.

Not wanting to go to university without direction, I studied a variety of subjects at college, and accidentally found myself falling into the world of media.

Fortunately, opportunities fell my way and I found myself controlling programmes for Premier League football commentary on a local radio station, whilst presenting different shows and writing for local and national newspapers.

And then 2008 reared its ugly head, with a great financial crash loud enough to be heard across the globe. With this and advancing technologies (such as social journalism and the internet), the industry began to shrink overnight.

Opportunities were little to none, and to pay my way through life I found myself in a variety of roles, including that of B2B marketing. This involved me, a computer, and a telephone, attempting to sell services of businesses to other businesses. Definitely not how I envisaged my life to pan out.

Whilst going about my daily routine, I saw a website for Vector Aerospace. Clicking the careers page, I saw an advert for an apprenticeship scheme for mechanical apprentices. An aircraft enthusiast, I thought there would be no harm in applying, although in my head I believed the odds were stacked firmly against me.

To my great surprise, I received confirmation of a telephone interview, which then led to an assessment day.

Being sceptical, I hastily asked whether my attendance would be for equality and diversity purposes, knowing that if I was successful I would be 25 and older than the average apprentice. The response I received was that of “if you’re what the company are looking for, age wouldn’t be a determined factor”. I was still unsure.

The assessment day was one of the most nervous experiences of my life, due to my hunger for obtaining the role. At the end of the day, I unfairly reflected on whether I could have done better. Only time would tell.

A couple of weeks later, on my lunch break, I received the call I was hoping for – I had got the job!

I will never forget my first day, meeting my new family of nine other apprentices. To my surprise, there were two others of my age group, both as grateful and enthusiastic as me.

As the time has passed, we have all become a solid unit with our differences positively impacting on each other.

We are currently in the Third Phase of our apprenticeship, which entails on-the-job training and working towards our level three NVQ portfolios. The feeling you get every morning turning up to work on a live aircraft is phenomenal. Approaching the bay- the area of the hangar where the aircraft is located, you cannot help but be proud of where you are, and enthusiastic for the future.

So far, I have worked on platforms such as Chinook and Lynx, and business units such as Engines, Shared Technical Services, Quality Departments, Health and Safety, and even the Fire Department to name a few. This opportunity really does enable the individual to understand the business as a whole, and as faces become familiar, makes you feel part of the working family.

Before I could get this far, I had to complete Phase’s One and Two which is designed to give you an underpinning knowledge before going ‘down the yard’.

Our Technical Certificates in the form of a BTEC in Aeronautical Engineering were achieved through day release at a local college, whilst in-house tests were given to ensure we met the high standards of the company.

Now approaching my 28th birthday, the gratitude I have to the company for giving me the opportunity to showcase and develop my skills just cannot be described. I am also lucky enough to have been allowed to further my education, enrolling onto studying a Higher National Certificate in Aeronautical Engineering.

As we head to our final straight before graduation, I can reflect on my life without the bitter taste of feeling ‘forgotten’, as I embark on what I hope to be a successful career in the fantastic industry of aerospace.

Vector Aerospace is part of the Airbus Group which is one of the founding members of industry led campaign The 5% Club. The 5% Club focusses on driving momentum into the recruitment of apprentices and graduates into the UK workforce at the hope of upskilling the next generation and decreasing youth unemployment. Airbus have committed to the pledge that within a five year time frame, 5% of its workforce will be dedicated to apprentices, graduates or sponsored students.

For more information about The 5% Club members and the apprenticeship opportunities they offer, please visit www.5percentclub.org.uk. You can also follow the campaign on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.



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