A 23-year-old auto vehicle electrician who was inspired by his father to take up a career in engineering has received an award for his hard work and technical talent after winning the North East Apprentice of the Year for the Institute of Road Engineers.
Jonathan Gardener from Sunniside in Gateshead, who finished his apprenticeship last year and is now fully qualified and working full time at Stagecoach North East’s Walkergate depot in Newcastle, has always been interested in engineering, motor sports and ‘fixing things’.
He decided to follow in his dad’s footsteps when he took up a four-year engineering apprenticeship with the local bus operator, where his dad Colin is the Engineering Manager at the depot in Sunderland.
Jonathan began his apprenticeship in 2013 after gaining a number of qualifications at Whickham Comprehensive School and Sixth Form, and decided against going to university, despite all his friends going off to study.
He said: “Although my friends went to university, I decided on an apprenticeship instead which was a lot better for me. I was drawn to the electrical side of engineering, and my Dad works on the mechanical side so we now have both covered! I’m certainly very appreciative of my Dad’s help and encouragement and all that he has done for me.”
With engineering running in the family and a natural ability for problem solving, Jonathan was inspired to work hard and was recognised for his talents as a fourth year apprentice at a prestigious awards ceremony at the Hilton in Gateshead.
Jonathan continued: “Winning Apprentice of the Year was great and I felt like a celebrity for a night! It was a wonderful night and all my family were there, including my proud Dad. It was also really useful to meet new people from different companies and build relationships.
“On the night it came as a complete surprise but it is great to be recognised, as you really have put the effort in to win the award. It is a real boost as I have worked hard through the whole apprenticeship scheme. My Dad’s name was always getting mentioned as he came through apprenticeship scheme too but it’s nice to have my own name recognised instead of his! It is my first award and great for my CV, with it being such a well renowned company.”
In his day-to-day role Jonathan makes sure that all the running repairs are cleared and is responsible for the maintenance and inspection of vehicles on a rota, as well as looking after the building maintenance.
He also works with fourth year apprentice Aidan Thomas from the engineering scheme, and hopes to inspire him in the same way that the engineering teams have done at the various depots across the north east where Jonathan spent time gaining experience.
Jonathan is delighted with the award and with securing a full time role at the depot in Newcastle, and his sense of pride is obvious. He added: “People on shop floor now come to me to help them even though I am one of the youngest. Other depots also ring me for advice and I love being able to help and solve the problems. I get real satisfaction from fixing things and ensuring my tasks are all as high quality as possible, the way I was taught by my Dad and by the team at Stagecoach.
“I hope I can pass on my skills and knowledge to other apprentices in the future. For anyone wanting to take up an apprenticeship, I would say work hard at college and show interest and enthusiasm, always ask questions and use the skills you gain to learn even more. Because of this Stagecoach put me through courses earlier as I wanted to push my knowledge further.”
Jonathan’s Dad, Colin, said: “I am immensely proud of Jonathan's achievements, and pleased he got the job on his own merits. He has proved to be an excellent asset for Stagecoach, demonstrating that not only is he an excellent electrician but that he can turn his hand to other trades and still perform well. This was recognised by the IRTE when he was awarded the prize and should encourage other apprentices to continue to work hard in order to gain similar recognition and eventually full time employment within Stagecoach.”
Alongside Jonathan’s success, Christian Spokes, a former apprentice and now full time engineer at the South Shields depot was highly commended for his final year of the apprenticeship programme.
Both Jonathan and Christian were presented their awards by Gary Chisholm, Chairman of the Institute of Road Engineers.
Gary, who is also Engineering Director at Stagecoach North East, said: “Jonathan and Christian are fantastic success stories and great advocates for our apprenticeship programme. They have worked extremely hard, been rewarded for their efforts and taken every opportunity offered to them. They now have a great career ahead of them and we’re proud that they are part of the Stagecoach family and deserve every success.”