An apprenticeship in Engineering

By Harry Mackenzie, Apprentice Telecoms Field Engineer

Harry Mackenzie Apprentice Engineer

I left school at 16, took a business course and knew I had made a mistake. College felt too much like school at a time when I wanted to be out in the real world doing a proper job. So I applied on the government website and was contacted by PQMS, a midland-based training and management consultancy that was part of the UK government’s apprenticeship programme.

The option of working in telecoms with Indigo came up and instantly appealed to me. It looked like every day would be different with a fair amount of travelling. It didn’t disappoint. I signed up and spent the next three months doing a variety of work in data centres, being trained on the job by Indigo engineers. A two-week stint at the PMQS training centre followed, where I was pleased to find it was as much about practical instruction as theory. It’s been an amazing experience.

Fibre being rolled out in a rural setting

Learning on the job

Each Friday with Indigo, I am given my assignments for the following week. Usually they involve me being out in the field with different engineers, where each has their own expertise and experience to share. They have all been really helpful and supportive, teaching me real-world skills, from terminating cables to installing copper wire.

I’ve also got quite proficient at working with fibre. I know how to use a fusion splicer to melt two optical fibres together to form a single cable. And I’m learning how to test the integrity of fibre optic cables using an OTDR (Optical Time Domain Reflectometer) to verify splice loss, measure length and find faults. I wouldn’t say I’m efficient at using one yet but I’m getting there.

I’ve learnt that it’s really important when working with fibre to keep it clean. Even a miniscule piece of dust can mess up a connection, so you’re always scraping the fibres and using scopes to make sure every spec of dirt has been removed.

Time spent in Indigo’s customer locations has given me a feel for the scale and complexity of the business.

data centre equipment and cables

Appreciation of the sector

The apprenticeship has more than met my expectations. I enjoy doing something different every day and have a gained a real understanding of what’s involved in being a telecoms field engineer. It’s been great working alongside seasoned professionals as well as other apprentices going through the same learning curve. We spend a lot of time on jobs together and there’s a great sense of camaraderie.

Maybe the biggest and best thing about my Indigo experience is that it’s opened my eyes to what the global telco and data centre industry is all about. It’s been funny explaining to my parents how the sector affects everybody’s daily lives and connects so many things around the house. There’s a good feeling about working in such a big industry where there is always going to be opportunities and job prospects. I’m convinced I’ve found the right career path and it’s been a really enjoyable experience.

My goal is to continue to develop my skills and put everything I’ve been learning into practice. The apprenticeship takes you through a series of certifications that I’m well on the way to completing. After I’m done, I’ll be in a good position to start a full-blown career in the telco/data centre sector – hopefully with Indigo.

I’d recommend an apprenticeship with Indigo as a great way to start your career.

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Read about Harry's apprenticeship in engineering. "I'll be in a good position to start a full-blown career in the telco/data centre sector".

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