My name is Joe Rowan and I’m an apprentice in the Site Services team. I’m in the final year of my apprenticeship, so I’ve been with Houghton International for three years now.
Before joining the business I was looking into options for apprenticeships after deciding sixth form wasn’t right for me. I arranged to spend one day a week at Houghton International doing work experience and I enjoyed it, so I decided to apply for their apprenticeship scheme.
When I first joined Houghton International I worked in the fitting department, cleaning different components when they arrived into the workshop and doing some of the dirtier jobs. I then progressed to doing tasks such as winding with help and guidance from the rest of the team. From there, I learned as I worked, picking things up from the team around me.
In the second year of my apprenticeship, I went on-site for a couple of weeks and I really enjoyed getting out and about, so I told my supervisor I’d like to do more of it. He agreed that I’d be suited to the role and so I started on the Site Services team three or four months ago. I feel that this was a big achievement for me – to become part of the team and represent the business out on customer sites.
The great thing about being on the Site Services team is that I’ll get to travel to site with a finished repair, put it in place and see where it goes and what it actually does. When I first started I was learning from scratch and I didn’t have a clue, but now I can look at things and understand how they work. Not only do I know how to do the job, I also understand why I’m doing it.
What I get up to on an average day depends on the job we’re doing, so I’ll check my messages in the morning to find out where we will be working that day. Our supervisor will let me know what tools and equipment I need for the job and I’ll head out to meet the rest of team.
We’re usually on site two or three times a week, but some weeks we’re out every day or we could even be on a site for a couple of months at a time. We can get called out at short notice, so you never really know what to expect. I think my favourite thing about working here is that every day has a new challenge.
The job can be anywhere when you’re on the site team, so no day is really average. I’ve been all over the place. My first site job was on a ship at Hebburn, and the sheer size of it really stood out – it must have been the biggest ship I’ve ever seen. I’ve just been working on a big pump in Darlington and yesterday I was at a power plant. We even do some work at a paper mill that manufactures toilet paper, so that is one that definitely stands out!
When you’re on site, it’s a total change from being in the workshop. You don’t have access to equipment like the overhead crane – you’ve only got the tools you brought with you. Things that would be easy in the shop can be quite challenging when you’re on site. This has meant I’ve learned a lot since I started working in Site Services.
I think most people want to progress in the business; I know I do. I’ve seen a lot of people being promoted and doing well, and the business is expanding so there are lots of opportunities. I’m excited to finish my apprenticeship and see what kind of opportunities are there for me. There’s always something to work hard towards and look forward to.
If I was going to give one piece of advice to someone wanting to be in a role like mine, I’d say to not give up when you’re stuck on a problem. Take a step back and see if you can think of a way to solve it. Sometimes you’ll need to ask someone to give you a hand and that’s fine, but don’t be afraid to get stuck in, have a go and do your best.