In the first of our series of interviews with Kimpton apprentices who have progressed through their apprenticeships and into the Kimpton Business. We meet Chris Tolley. Chris is married with two kids age 35, lives in Little Sutton and his claim to being one of Kimpton’s best ever apprentice is a strong one, as he won the National Apprentice of the Year Award in 2004.
“I joined Kimpton in January 2002 when I applied for and later offered an apprenticeship. I’d worked at Burley Dam Garden Centre since I was around 15 and this led me to study Landscape Gardening at Reaseheath, but my heart just wasn’t in it.
I joined the business as an apprentice engineering technician and was initially working on the production of Operation and Maintenance Manuals. This was mainly pulling information together from all sorts of different sources and then collating it so that it was organised and usable by clients. I also spent a lot of time in supporting the engineers with gathering information and specifications. It helped me understand lots of the technical aspects of what the job involved and immerse myself in the specifications of the kit and essentially, what did what.
At the same time I did two years at Liverpool Community College on day release, one day per week to study Building Services as an HNC and when I passed this, Kimpton pushed me further, so I went on to do two more years study for an HND in Building Services at Liverpool Community College.
In my time in work I was soon being tasked with the work of a real Projects Engineer and they gradually trusted me more and more, until I was running projects on my own.
Quite early on I lead the project for the refurbishment of the Gladstone Conservatory in Stanley Park. It was a huge responsibility and I couldn’t quite believe how high a profile a project it was – but I felt ready and the directors here trusted me. This meant a lot to me that I was given this much responsibility and I still look back at it with pride every time I drive by.”
Life as one of the Kimpton Apprentices
I asked him how the older team members treated him as it’s often not easy for younger people to be accepted into existing teams
“To be honest, they were great. They weren’t jumping down my throat if I didn’t know something, but were very keen to help if and when I asked for it. I was always taught that there was no such thing as a daft question so they were there for me. I guess as many of them joined as apprentices themselves, they were giving a little back to the next generation.”
So the killer question is as a father of young kids yourself, whether you would encourage your own kids to follow the apprenticeship route.
“That’s a definite yes. I think if they were keen to go into an area of work, where a degree is vital such as teaching or medicine then maybe University would be the only option, but otherwise I’d have no hesitation at all.
There’s only so much you can learn in a classroom. College is all about the theory, but work is all about putting that theory into practice and that is a great way to reinforce what you’d learnt.”
So where next?
“I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but i’m still learning every day and the variety of projects I work on keeps it fresh and interesting. So for me, I’m keen to stay at Kimpton, work with future Kimpton Apprentices and progress within the business. I know if I continue to learn and work then there are opportunities for me here. I’m excited about the future and know I made a great decision to come here and follow the apprenticeship route”