Interview: the Institution of Engineering & Technology apprentice of the year

A young man has been awarded for his outstanding work on an engineering apprenticeship, improving the safety, efficiency and accuracy in the construction of wind farms. AllAboutSchoolLeavers was lucky enough to speak to him to find out more. 

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Josh Barber picking up his award

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has announced the winners of its annual Apprentice and Technician of the Year Awards, which recognise individuals who have made exceptional engineering contributions to their profession or operational area.

Josh Barber was chosen as Apprentice of the Year from a shortlist of three for his outstanding work on a client’s wind farm grid connection project.

Josh has a HNC and BTEC Level 3 with double distinction in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and works for ABB Ltd as an Apprentice Circuit Engineer. He supports ABB’s Schools Support Programme, coordinates industry days and volunteers at events and career days, and has given presentations on ABB’s work to scholars, students, the local community and MPs.

His cost-saving redesign for a supplies pillar-marshalling kiosk layout to improve safety, efficiency and reduce installation errors won approval from senior engineers, his supervisors and ABB’s customers, and has now been adopted by the company as standard.

Josh received a prize consisting of a trophy, certificate, £1,000 and two years’ free IET membership.

“An Apprenticeship at ABB provided me with on the job experience supported with studying at college and university, as well as financial support throughout,” said Josh. “This combined with the opportunity to work for a global company such as ABB would give a platform for my career that university alone could not offer.”

Josh said he developed an interest in design during work placements, and that this led him to apply for an apprenticeship with ABB, where he works on wind farms like Pen y Cymoedd, one of the UK’s largest on shore farms utilising new technology such as Static Var Compensation. His employer, ABB, provides the interconnection from the farm to the National Grid.

“It was a privilege to be asked to work on this project and provided me with a platform to work with experienced engineers and also provided me with the opportunity to take design ownership and produce a non-historical solution for the supplies pillar marshalling kiosk, which the award is for,” Josh said. 

“An Apprenticeship at ABB provided me with on the job experience supported with studying at college and university, as well as financial support throughout. This combined with the opportunity to work for a global company such as ABB would give a platform for my career that university alone could not offer.”

The training and support he received also helped him grow, and ultimately win the prestigious award he’s been recognised with. “I am very fortunate that the team I work with within protection and control spend a lot of time training and supporting the apprentices to develop us to the best of our abilities,” Josh said. “I would say that my favourite part of my job is taking on new challenges and projects I haven’t done before whilst being supported by the team.”

Obviously it’s a lot of hard work though, and apprentices have to balance the study side of their programmes with the workplace side. Josh said it is challenging and that he’s had to give up a lot of his free time to succeed, but that the team at ABB are always more than willing to help.

Essentially, it’s doing something you enjoy that makes an apprenticeship as success. “I think it is very important that you do what you enjoy, therefore I am currently planning a rotation into different departments,” Josh said. And he’s got big plans in the world of engineering: “I would like to see myself managing my own engineering team or project in the future.”

Josh is also passionate about encouraging and helping other young people into the industry. He believes that work experience and apprenticeships could be key to many of those who aspire to move into engineering. “Don’t write off an apprenticeship,” he said. “Where else can you get on the job training, support with your studies and a career?”

Josh is very hands-on when it comes to this: he’s part of the core team for the school support programme that ABB run, and also produced a work experience handbook outlining structure and rotation into different departments for work experience students at the company. This booklet is designed to be populated during placements at ABB, which students then take away and use for any job/apprenticeship interviews or university applications in the future. 

“It feels amazing to have won the award, when I found out that ABB had nominated me I was ecstatic, then to find out that I had made it to the final was unbelievable and then to go on and win means so much,” Josh said, of his prize. “I’m very passionate about what I do and I will always give 100%.”

 The IET is one of the world’s largest engineering institutions with over 167,000 members in 150 countries. It is also the most interdisciplinary – to reflect the increasingly diverse nature of engineering in the 21st century.

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