This week marks the 17th annual National Apprenticeship Week, a week to shine a light on the positive impact that apprenticeships make on individuals, businesses, and the wider economy. At HAV, apprentices have played a key part in our business so far, and will continue to do so in the future. To mark this event we sat down with our Production Manager, Ivor Pope, to discuss with him the impact of apprenticeships. Ivor has been part of the HAV team for over 12 years and has played a key role in the development and production of the Airlander prototype.
Tell us about the role apprentices played in building the prototype?
We took on two apprentice technicians in the production environment, neither had previous aviation experience. We integrated them into the development of the ducted engines and the modifications to the aircraft hull, and they were heavily involved in the integration of the major assemblies onto the hull. They shadowed our technicians and over time, as their confidence and competence developed, their role within the team became more prominent.
Fast forward to today, as Air Vehicle Technicians, they are currently involved in concept testing. They both alternate in leading each project from the production perspective. They plan the task, interface with the design leads, planning, stores, and inspection to ensure what they build and test is completed and documented correctly. In addition to their primary role, one is internally trained as a POA auditor, and the other is involved in facilities maintenance and is a trained Portable Appliance Tester. They play an integral role in the production team.
How important do you think having apprenticeship schemes is as we move into the production and Type Certification programme?
I feel that apprenticeships will be an important part of our development as a company. We will need to be part of the wider community to continue to inspire and promote careers in aviation. There are so many emerging technologies and I feel the recent generations were brought up in closer alignment with these technologies and the digital-dependent world we now live and collaborate in. They will likely offer fresh ideas from a different perspective which will help in the development of what we are doing.
You started your career as an apprentice. What made you choose the apprenticeship route?
I wasn’t hugely inspired by school for a number of reasons. Early on, it was obvious I was driven by a curiosity and propensity toward all things technical, whether mechanical, electrical, or electronic and have always loved to fix everything I could get my hands on. This earned me the name of ‘Technical Ted’ within my family.
My father took me to a careers fair after school and helped me to choose three companies to apply to. I chose, and applied to British Aerospace, BP, and British Gas. I was offered British Aerospace and BP and for some reason chose the latter. It was their Advanced Materials Division in Avonmouth, Bristol where I was first introduced to aviation. I manufactured composite overhead stowage bins and wing panels for Airbus aircraft, thrust reverser doors and engine cowlings for Boeing and Pratt and Whitney engines.
Once I had completed my apprenticeship, I showed interest in their drawing office and spent my last three years on the drawing board and later CAD before being made redundant as the company closed its doors. Soon after that, I joined the Royal Air Force.
What did you get out of undertaking an apprenticeship?
Doing something I enjoy and am good at. My apprenticeship in college and my Royal Air Force technical training cemented my foundation of engineering skills. I could have continued in full-time education but because I wasn’t great academically, I didn’t feel I would have been inspired to do anything other than attend. Starting practically gave me a grasp of where I might go next. This led me to the Royal Air Force where I turned a job into a passion and a career. Over these formative years, my academic side caught up with my practical ability, leading me to work in projects outside of my primary role or comfort zone. HAV is great at recognising strengths in people and supporting progression.