9th February 2023

Catching up with Karl Drayton, our first Piling Apprentice.

Last year, we introduced you to Karl Drayton, one of the first cohorts of Piling Apprentices at Van Elle and the first apprentice to successfully pass.

Karl has since worked on a range of high-profile projects for our Housing division, which specialises in delivering innovative foundation solutions to residential developers across the UK.

Following the completion of his apprenticeship, Karl was promoted and is responsible for assisting in the operations and installation of precast foundations.

One year on, we chat with Karl about the opportunities the apprenticeship gave him, how his studies have been going over the last 12 months. As well as, what it’s like working at Van Elle and his advice to those considering an apprenticeship.

How have things been going over the last year, following the completion of your apprenticeship?

The past year has been extremely rewarding for me, I have learned many relevant skills whilst putting the skills acquired during my apprenticeship to use. Van Elle has provided me with the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, especially within the housing division. This has put my skills to the test and given me the chance to develop and progress.

Tell us a little about you and your current role at Van Elle.

Previously I worked primarily for the Housing division on various projects, including the Bingham project for Barratt David Wilson and Taylor Wimpey. This project involved combining both Piling and Smartfoot, which made it a very interesting project to work on. The project has seen so far 4,000 piles drilled along with 20,000 metres of beams being installed.

Since moving over from SmartFoot, I am now working full-time for the piling team. I am really excited about this role as there is a lot of room for progression and growth.

What’s the most valuable skill you’ve learnt so far?

I can’t pinpoint a single skill that I value the most. During my time at Van Elle, I’ve learned a wide range of skills that are useful in a variety of situations.

As a result of the in-house training available at Van Elle, I was able to gain tickets for multiple qualifications such as Telehandler, Rig attendant and SMSTS (Site Management Safety Training Scheme).

Although obtaining these tickets helped me gain industry-specific skills, I also took away lifelong skills as a result.

I am now confident in identifying issues and using my initiative to resolve them, as well as communicating with and supervising a team, thanks to courses like SMSTS and on-the-job experience.

What’s the most challenging part about being an apprentice?

My biggest challenge during my apprenticeship was completing my English and Maths, as I am not as academically inclined as I am practically. Nevertheless, with the support of my colleagues at Van Elle and the confidence I gained from them, everything became a lot easier.

What are your plans/hope for the year ahead?

My goal is to become a piling supervisor and obtain my rig ticket.

Hopefully, then I will gain the confidence I need to do the piling jobs and ensure I am able to run a job before going off on my own.

With this qualification, I am able to specialise in piling operations and demonstrate my abilities when operating a rig and supervising a team. This is an extremely exciting opportunity for me to enhance my capabilities and learn different skills that I can carry with me throughout my career.

This just goes to show how many opportunities Van Elle offers. Even after you finish your apprenticeship there are so many positions available for individuals to pursue.

Advice for anyone considering an apprenticeship?

For anyone considering an apprenticeship at Van Elle, I would say go for it. With a wide range of divisions to work within, the business opens so many doors for anyone who is willing to put the work in.

Although you may find the apprenticeship frustrating at times, which is something I found due to not being as academically minded as some of my peers. There is always someone to support you if you require any help. So, my advice would be to persevere and, in the end, the hard work pays off.

Our Piling Apprenticeship offers a perfect opportunity to complete training and become a highly skilled site operative.

We are delivering the Piling Apprenticeship in partnership with The Sheffield College. The 2-year programme, fully funded, covers assisting in driving, boring, and forming piles in the ground to provide firm support for buildings and structures.

If you are interested in becoming an apprentice, please contact us here or visit the National Apprenticeship Week website