Why the Graduate Apprenticeship Route Adds Up To a Great Future at EnerMech

It’s never too late to become a mature student, and it’s a route that Aberdeen-based project accountant Iain Swinburne had never fully considered during his 30-year career until his EnerMech line manager presented the opportunity to him in 2018.

Fast forward those four years, and Iain has becoming one of the company’s first to complete its Graduate Apprenticeship programme, earning a Bachelor of Arts honours degree in Business Administration from Robert Gordon University. The course was specifically designed by Skills Development Scotland to support the Energy industry by blending theoretical studies with on-the-job practical learnings.

Iain is the first to admit that no one was more surprised than he was to be approached and to hear himself saying ‘yes’ to the offer. He explained: “I have occasionally wondered what direction my life might have taken if I’d studied for a university degree, but it’s only been a fleeting thought as I’ve enjoyed the path I’ve taken. I’ve also been highly satisfied with the professional qualifications I’ve achieved along the way. However, while many who have worked for as long as I have might feel they have nothing new to learn or be daunted by taking on a new challenge, when EnerMech presented the Graduate Apprenticeship opportunity, I knew it was one I couldn’t let pass me by.”

University was not the first choice in Iain’s mind when he left school at 18. “I chose to study for a High National Certificate (HNC) in accounting to give me some time to figure out what I wanted to do in life. I soon found that I had a knack for accountancy, and I also really enjoyed it.”

Working across a variety of companies in the satellite communications and financial services sectors, Iain established a successful career for himself. He joined EnerMech as a lead management accountant in 2015, before swiftly being promoted to invoicing team lead the following year. “Having decades of work experience, the Graduate Apprenticeship topics were not new to me. However, whilst I was familiar with the subjects that were being taught, I had never fully understood the theory behind them. This program has allowed me to gain a deeper and more granular understanding of not just my role, but the business as a whole.

“Beyond this, there were countless opportunities made available to me that I hadn’t thought possible when starting the course. One major highlight that coincided with me being on the programme was my secondment to an EnerMech JV company, SEPAM International, which allowed me to relocate to Luxembourg. I was privileged to be a part of the team for a year, a move that took me completely out of my comfort zone and challenged me in ways that I hadn’t experienced in many years.”

Mentoring proved to be an important aspect of the apprenticeship, and as Iain explains, there was no shortage of colleagues prepared to support him when needed.

“I cannot thank my line managers at EnerMech enough for their undivided support throughout the entire process. For any obstacle that I faced during my studies, there was always an experienced teammate I could turn to for advice on the matter. Looking ahead, I hope I can extend this same support to any of my workmates who are also considering the course.

“Being a Graduate Apprentice provided an experience I would highly recommend to anyone, and one to firmly grasp with both hands. I not only learned a lot about myself and my own capabilities to juggle work and a degree course, but I was able to make a difference to the business. My final university project helped to identify and recommend some improvements which have led to efficiencies across our operations, which I’m immensely proud of.

“I am incredibly grateful to EnerMech for allowing me to discover that it is never too late to take on a new challenge.”