Meet our apprentices

Apprentices are the lifeblood of businesses today and Bisley is no exception; we’ve employed and supported apprentices for over 20 years now. To celebrate our apprentices, we met up with some of them to find out more about their life at Bisley.

Today, we get to know Thomas Hughes.Thomas is a second-year apprentice working in our Tool Room. He is observing and learning the design, construction and maintenance of the precision tools that go into our machines.

Can you give me a summary of what you do?
My job is to focus on the tools for our machines. I carry out maintenance and repairs on these, as well as creating different components for new tools. At the moment, my skill level isn’t quite high enough to make a whole new tool on my own but I help make and fix the different components that these tools are made of and then my team members with more experience will use these parts to put the whole tool together.

What’s your main responsibilities?
My work revolves mostly around jigs, which are a type of component for our machines which control the location and motion of another tool. When an Engineer designs a new jig, they’ll produce a drawing and pass it on to me. I can then start cutting and shaping the materials to make the components for it. Once the necessary jigs have been assembled, they can be used in different parts of the manufacturing process to make it more efficient.

Why did you want to do an apprenticeship?
Before starting my apprenticeship, I had another job where I wasn’t very satisfied with my role and there wasn’t much of a chance to progress, so I decided to do something about it. That’s when I saw the vacancy for a Toolmaking Apprentice at Bisley and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I’m much happier now as I love what I do and it will allow me to build a career, not just have a job.

Why did you want to work for Bisley?
I did some research into the company when I applied for the role. I liked the Bisley values and how they have very high standards for everything they do.

What’s it like to work and study at the same time?
With my busy schedule, it can be very demanding. As well as doing my apprenticeship and all the college work that comes with it, I also have two children to look after. To make sure I have enough time to study, I have to go to wake up early in the mornings and go to bed late at night. I’m very proud of how I’ve managed my time well so far, as I’ve achieved mostly Distinction level qualifications in my BTEC’s.

How do you handle all the tasks you’re given at work?
The things that need to be done there and then are the most important. For instance, if a production line has stopped or is at risk of stopping, you have to drop everything and help to fix it. The hardest part is that when you finish dealing with these urgent jobs, you have to go back to the task you were previously working on and try and remember what you were doing before! I handle this by leaving myself notes. I’ve learnt to cope with more than one thing at a time.

How have you developed on a personal level throughout your apprenticeship?
The biggest change was that I became more organised. It had been nearly seven years since I left college, so when I first went back to study toolmaking, I wasn’t as organised as I could have been. This year, I’ve made it a big point to be more organised. It’s saved me so much time and effort as I can easily find all the materials I need to do my assignments. Organisation is key, I can’t emphasise it enough!

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to get into toolmaking?
There’s no looking back once you’ve started. It’s always going to be challenging and people will have high expectations, but this always pushes you to take pride in what you’re doing. When you contribute to making a new tool, people are very grateful as this helps to make their lives at work much easier.

What do you like to do outside at work?
I play pool for a league team. It’s more of a social event and nothing too serious but we’re top of the league at the moment so we can’t complain. It’s a great way to relieve stress and it’s my escape from everything I have to do.

Where would you like to go on holiday?
I’d like to go back to Cyprus, it’s by far the best holiday I’ve ever had.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about apprenticeships?
If you choose to do one, you must be willing to work hard and be really organised. But, the career prospects you get from it in the end are so worth it. I was 24 when I stared my apprenticeship, so I made it right before the cut-off age. I was very lucky to secure the opportunity.

I personally think that this route is the best way to go, as I think going to university gets you good qualifications but not experience, and then you get people that went straight into work who sometimes lack the necessary qualifications to get the job they want. I think apprenticeships are a happy medium between the two.