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February 8 2023
As part of National Apprenticeship Week, we’ve been catching up with some of our apprentices including Level 2 Rail Engineering Operative - Craig Smith to learn more about his experience so far!
Craig is in the early stages of his apprenticeship, having completed the first three months to date. Craig has some additional support needs due to being neuro-diverse, which he has overcome by working closely with our team and training provider. We are thrilled with the progress he has made so far.
Q: TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
I had a troubled past and grew up in care from the age of five. This gave me an opportunity to escape from the trauma I was experiencing at the time and is where I found my interest in steam engines and the railway. When I was 12 years old, I became a volunteer supporting the trains and tracks and enjoyed every minute of it.
I also love horses and for the last four years have been competing in Horseball tournaments. My other hobbies include looking after tropical fish, watching football and gaming.
I have ADHD. I feel I am a good example of how someone that is on the neuro-diverse spectrum can fail at school but go on to achieve success in life.
I always dreamed of a career in the infrastructure industry, and I am now living this dream on a Railway apprenticeship with McGinley.
Q: DID YOU ENJOY STUDYING AT SCHOOL?
I hated it, I couldn’t sit in a classroom for more than 10 mins. I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was a child but was given no support or medication.
I learn things in a different way from most people and because of this, I felt that I never fitted in and that nobody understood me.
I would get angry and kick off with everyone looking at me. I tried to make people laugh in a bid to be accepted and included but it didn’t work. I excelled in Art and Design & Technology but struggled with all the other subjects. By working hard and with determination I did manage to pass some of my exams. A fact of which I am really proud.
Q: WHAT CAREER DID YOU WANT TO PURSUE WHILST AT SCHOOL
Rail infrastructure, I never wanted to do anything else. Because of my ADHD and feelings of not fitting in and being excluded, I didn’t do anything for a couple of years and was receiving benefits whilst having therapy. I really struggled for a time but after sessions with a therapist, I found the confidence to work for a building firm and did some labouring to gain experience.
Q: WHY DID YOU CHOOSE AN APPRENTICESHIP IN RAIL?
My foster mother spotted the McGinley ad and when she showed me, I found myself thinking, is this for real? Because it was everything I wanted. I applied but was told the roles had all been filled and I would be added to the waiting list. Thankfully for me a couple of the candidates were not suitable, so I was given an opportunity to attend a last-minute interview. I was nervous as it was all very quick but, it went well and was very happy when I met Janet and Mia from McGinley. They were so supportive, and this helped me to overcome my anxiety and nerves – so much so that I was told I ‘smashed it’ and offered a place. It feels so good to say I am a Rail Engineer.
Q: HAVE YOU EVER FELT EXCLUDED FOR ANY REASON IN LIFE?
Yes, ADHD is a disability and as a result of having this, I have felt excluded. That I was different from others. Growing up I was very confident outside of school but in school, I was just labelled as a troublemaker as no one knew what was causing my behaviour or how to support me.
I am now so eager to learn. I make friends easily and love to chat. I feel included 100% with McGinley and particularly my team when I am on the job. They are so supportive.
Q: WHAT DO YOU MOST ENJOY ABOUT THE APPRENTICESHIP? AND ARE THERE ANY CHALLENGES?
I enjoy learning on the job, with my mentor, he is so supportive and the way he teaches me is perfect, I have already achieved my DCCR, PTS and all small tools.
At college they break up the day for us, which helps with my ADHD, we do everything together as part of a group and I feel so included. I also get to go for up to five short breaks throughout the day when needed.
My team at work have supported me with learning – they stop work, break things down, explain why and then ask me to do it. As this is the best way I learn.
Sometimes the night shift is a challenge – you can get tired towards the end of the shift, especially if the weather is bad. But the team are all supportive and we get through together.
Q: WHAT NEXT?
I want to continue to be a good example of how someone that is on the neuro-diverse spectrum can achieve success. By progressing in my apprenticeship, working hard and even winning apprentice of the month or even the year!
When I finish my apprenticeship, I would like to train to be a COSS and get managerial experience within the railway industry.
Q: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER PEOPLE THINKING OF WORKING IN THIS INDUSTRY?
Follow your dreams and make the most of the opportunities that come your way. Do what is best for you as a person and believe in yourself, others will follow. It can be hard and sometimes even intimidating but don’t be fearful, deep down you know you can do it.