Why are apprenticeships important?

Trade Radiators Competition Winner:  Sam Smith, owner at S.G.Smith Plumbing and Heating in Derby (

Apprentice Hired: Jacob Ball (17)

Talk Business ask winner Sam Smith why he think apprenticeships are important.


Why did you enter the competition?

I heard about the Trade Radiators competition through Rated People. I received their monthly newsletter which advertised the competition. I’ve been self-employed since 2012, so I thought that it would be a great way to help me and my plumbing business expand.

I wasn’t looking for an apprentice at the time since I’d not been long working full-time myself and could not finance it. As a result, when I saw news of the competition I thought, go for it and see what happens!

Hiring an apprentice wouldn’t only help me, but it would be beneficial for the apprentice themselves in allowing them the opportunity to get into the trade.

Do you think apprenticeships are important? If so, why?

I think that it’s essential for those who want to go into the trade to undertake an apprenticeship. College is great for learning the theory, but you cannot pick up all the skills needed without having the experience of an apprenticeship too. All the little shortcuts, tricks of the trade are taught much faster learning on the job. I myself find I learn better watching someone do something rather than being told how to do it. The practical element is most important, so apprenticeships give apprentices a head start on the practical side of the job.

Having an apprentice means giving me much needed help for every day, time-consuming tasks. The can be anything from getting things from the van and taking phone calls to assisting me on jobs.
Practical aspects of the job can be learnt more quickly simply by watching me work and learning the tricks of the trade as opposed to just learning theory. It’s really beneficial to an apprentice and accelerates their learning. The added extra support really helpful, and in the long run saves me money and time, meaning that we can get the job done quicker together.

I think more should be done to advertise apprenticeships, as I don’t feel that awareness of them is high enough, and a lot of people don’t know that they are even out there. I did an apprenticeship myself, but it took a whole year for me to find one, it was really difficult. The reason I heard about it was through my uncle, as he knew someone who was looking for one. It came down to who you know.

What did you think when you’d won?

I really didn’t expect to win, I applied on the off-chance and hope that I might be lucky enough to win. So when I saw in my emails that I’d won I was really chuffed! I’m just happy to know that I could help someone. Being an apprentice myself at one stage, I knew what knowledge I could impart and the benefits an apprentice could get form me. I wanted to help someone out.

How is your apprentice doing so far?

My apprentice, Jacob Ball (17) started in November and he’s doing really well so far. He’s done a year at college already so he picked up all the basics really quickly and has got to grips with all the main tools. It’s saving me lots of time and he can help out readily with lots of little jobs, and he’s picking up more and more every day. He’s getting into the mind-set of knowing what I’ll need next when he’s watching me on a job.

When he gets his own car this will help even more as I can send him on jobs by himself. For the future, he’s thinking about doing a plumbing apprenticeship in full as that’s the area he’s enjoying the most. But for the moment, he’s just enjoying himself!

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