As part of our National Apprenticeship week series, we talk to Jamie Thums MBE, Chief Operating Officer of Lintott Control Systems, part of nmcn, about how his apprenticeship laid the foundations for a life-long passion for learning and why they are so important.
I started my apprenticeship 30 years ago at a time where apprenticeships had really fallen out of fashion. It was before the new style apprenticeships we now know well and when traditional apprenticeships had become few and far between.
At that point, it was very much the norm to go straight into work if you wanted a blue-collar job, or go to college and university before you started a career. However, I was lucky enough to start working for a company that held learning in high regard. Having this instilled in me from day one set the pace and trajectory of my career. Life-long learning is something I firmly believe is essential for businesses to build productivity in a competitive market.
Igniting a passion for learning
I was always fascinated by how things work. My father worked at the local power station at Ratcliffe on Soar. When we visited on family days, I was intrigued by its size and what it did. This fuelled the desire to pursue a technically based career, but at the time, the path for me was unclear.
After leaving full time education, I approached a local engineering firm that produced packaging machinery for fast moving consumer goods. I had no hands-on experience, so I was recruited as an apprentice, which in my case, enabled me to gain a broad range of manufacturing skills including machining, electrical wiring and mechanical assembly. This was complemented by technical studies. Within a few years, I was travelling across Europe as a service engineer.
At 22, I was given the opportunity to broaden my experience, taking on a junior management role in product test and development. I was encouraged by the MD to embrace continuous learning, which included completing an array of training courses and a distance learning degree. By 25, I had been appointed as Control Systems Manager. This coincided with learning new skills, including sales and marketing.
At 27, I studied the Professional Certificate in Management. This fuelled an appetite to pursue a career in operations management. As my original mentor had moved on, I decided to join another business. Within 12 months, I had been promoted to branch manager, some eight years after completing my apprenticeship. A few years later, I became general manager responsible for two international business units, and not long after, I assumed the additional role of Head of Excellence.
In 2012 my original mentor, David Owen and I, with the support of an investor, acquired Lintott Control Systems. With the help of the existing team, we set about transforming the business and instilling some of the values that had been a huge part of my career.
Transferring learning into productivity
When we took over at Lintott, we went through a period of intense learning in remodelling the business. It had been a great company, but change was needed. This culminated in the business being acquired by nmcn in 2019.
The experience gained at Lintott has reinforced the notion of life-long learning. Together with the senior team, I have sought to encourage this within the local workforce, which mirrors perfectly the drive and people aspirations of nmcn.
My apprenticeship stood me in good stead and instilled a passion for learning. This helped me advance my career, including becoming a Chartered Engineer, a Top 100 Manufacturing figure, and a Fellow of the IET. Last year, I commenced a post graduate research degree, which I hope, will culminate in a PhD.
In addition to encouraging continued professional development across the workforce, I’m also passionate about more people recognising the career opportunities in the sector. To help in this regard, in 2015, I became the Chair of the NAAME sector group for advanced manufacturing and engineering and I’m also part of the Advisory Board for the University of East Anglia’s engineering, technology and management hub, “Productivity East”.
My apprenticeship much more closely resembled what we know works now and I believe that this learning centred approach prepares career entrants for what comes next in their career. Apprenticeships are therefore a source of significant grounding and balance the joint acquisition of skills, experience and qualifications – benefiting both employer and employee.
Since I started my own apprenticeship there has been a seismic shift in attitudes towards them. An apprenticeship is now something people can do later in life if they wish to make a career change.
It is also now acknowledged that learning and study is a life-long journey. With the exciting but quickening pace of change, industry can only benefit from more people continuing to study at intervals during their career. With recent changes including the Apprenticeship Levy, today’s apprenticeship opportunities facilitate this.
Apprenticeships provide the opportunity to keep learning at every level. One colleague is due to start our first levy funded MBA level apprenticeship shortly. There has never been a more exciting time to get on the learning conveyor and apprenticeships can help you to do that.
Industry needs problem solvers and ‘intrapreneurs’ who are driven to learn and innovate. apprenticeships provide the springboard to fuel such a journey.
Find out more about apprenticeship opportunities at nmcn by visiting our careers page here.
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