Apprentice Engineer

Lee Chappell

Hear from Lee Chappell, an Apprentice Engineer at SMT GB based in Stirling.

“...there’s so many interesting things happening here, the company is growing in a big way and a load of interesting new products and services are coming soon that I can’t wait to work with.”
— Lee Chappell - SMT GB Apprentice Engineer

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background prior to joining the apprenticeship programme?

My name is Lee Chappell, I’m 22 and from Stirling. Before joining the SMT GB Apprenticeship programme, I studied Computer Science at Glasgow Caledonia University. I completed all three years, but didn’t really enjoy it at all. During this time, my brother-in-law helped me get my first job, which was as a night-time assistant on the railway.

All I had to do to start with was hand tools to the engineers, but I quickly kept gaining new tickets. I was there for 4 years in total, and worked up to becoming the Controller of Site Safety, which saw me be responsible for organising all of the site permits and turning off electricity for tracks being worked on. But it was a zero-hour contract, so it left me with no work or pay for 4 months out of the year, and I just couldn’t see a future in it.

Thinking of a long-term plan, I reflected on my love of motorbikes and working on engines, which is something my father helped me get in to, and has led to me racing bikes up at Knockhill Racing Circuit a few time as an amateur. So this got me thinking of pursuing an engineering job, which made more sense to me.

After months and months of looking, I came across the SMT GB Apprenticeship programme online, and this got me thinking that if I like working on small engines, I bet it would be really cool to get to work on huge engines.

Were you specifically looking for apprenticeships when you applied?

Yes I was. I did the whole Uni thing and didn’t particularly want to go back, but I also didn’t want to do an unskilled job either, so learning a trade through an apprenticeship made the most sense to me.

How did you find the application process?

It was super easy! After putting in my application, I had a phone interview and a face-to-face interview, which I found super easy. Not to say I wasn’t nervous, but the team made it really easy, handled it very well and kept me well informed throughout the process.

How have you found going back to college?

I’ve found it really fun! Everything we’re taught is really interesting, and it’s something I actually want to learn about, so I find that I’m actively focusing the whole time I’m there. All the people at college are really nice as well, and I made a really good friends with someone from Wales while I’ve been there – I actually ended up driving 9 hours to spend New Year’s at his house, and we’re planning a trip to Barcelona next year for my 23rd, so I’ve made a really good mate from it!

How have you found working with the machines?

It’s really tough and a proper graft, but I love it! There’s tonnes to learn, and it’s super complex. One day I’ll think I know everything, and the next day they’ll introduce something new that leaves me thinking ‘I have no idea what that is at all’, but you soon learn, and I think that’s great.

I never thought I’d be that into plant, but I now find myself spotting excavators while driving on a motorway and trying to identify them!

How do you feel about eventually going out in your own van and fixing machines?

I’m super excited about it, and it’s what I’m striving towards. It’s really cool to think that I’ll soon have the knowledge and ability to be able to work from the van, go out and get the job done.

How have you found it to work for SMT GB so far?

We’re absolutely spoilt here, especially compared to what I’m used to. It pays well, you get all of your PPE for free, all of my travel from Stirling is paid for and any concerns you have are taken care of immediately, so I’m really impressed.

Do you see much for a future for yourself at SMT GB?

Absolutely, there’s so many interesting things happening here, the company is growing in a big way and a load of interesting new products and services are coming soon that I can’t wait to work with.

There’s also a tonne of training available, and you’re given everything you need, so I don’t see myself leaving any time soon!