National Apprenticeship Week at DER-IC North East

National Apprenticeship Week 2022 takes place from 7-13 February 2022. This week-long celebration brings together everyone passionate about apprenticeships to highlight the value, benefit, and opportunity that apprenticeships bring.


At our Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centres (DER-IC) North East centre, we are passionate about STEM and supporting apprenticeships and we have recently had the opportunity to take on a fantastic new apprentice from Newcastle University's School of Engineering, Joe Pugh. DER-IC Marketing Manager Faye Harland caught up with Joe to find out more about what he's been working on, and how his apprenticeship has allowed him to gain valuable work experience.


Joe installing ring main circuits at the DER Centre North East.

FH: Could you tell us who you are and what you're working on?


JP: I’m Joe Pugh and I’m an apprentice at Newcastle University, and I’ve recently started working at the Driving the Electric Revolution Centre – North East. I’m currently working between the University and the DER North East centre in Sunderland as the centre gets ready to launch.


FH: What stage of your apprenticeship are you at just now?


JP: I’ve just finished my HNC (Higher National Certificate) in Electrical Engineering and I’m in the final year of my apprenticeship. My apprenticeship has been 4 years in total, starting out at Hartlepool College studying electrical principles and PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers). Currently I’m at Newcastle University working on the DER-IC project with Martin Feeney, the Technical/Engineering Operations Manager, and Dan Ward, the Deputy Technical/Engineering Operations Manager.


FH: What made you first get interested in engineering?


JP: I first got interested in engineering from my Dad, he’s a handyman and just like him I like hands on work. My Dad does a bit of everything so it gave me a base for trying a lot of new things out. I wasn’t given much option to learn about engineering in school, but I was able to do a few taster sessions in college like electrical installation which let me try a side of engineering I hadn’t been able to learn with my Dad.


FH: What have you enjoyed most about your apprenticeship?


JP: I got my apprenticeship in at Newcastle University in 2018 and the thing I’ve enjoyed most about working at the University is the variety. I’ve been lucky to have a chance to work across all the different schools from Chemical to Marine engineering, and I’ve especially enjoyed being able to do electrical maintenance in the labs. They have different systems and ways of working everywhere you go so learning to adapt my work to that has been a good experience.


The DER-IC North East team at the Sunderland centre. L-R: Derrick Holliday (Technical Lead), Faye Harland (Marketing Manager), Rachel Chambers (COO), Dan Ward (Deputy Technical/Engineering Manager), Martin Feeney (Technical/Engineering Manager), Joe Pugh (DER-IC Apprentice).

I found out about the DER-IC project when I was working to install sensors at NGIF, the National Green Infrastructure Facility, at Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory, where I met Martin Feeney. I told Martin I was interested in doing more work in electrical engineering, and he said I would be able to get some experience in this at the new DER-IC in Sunderland. I’ve enjoyed working at the University but I’d like to get some experience in a hands-on manufacturing environment too, which is where the DER-IC comes in: unlike the University, it’s a new space which will house industrial scale equipment which needs to be set up.


FH: What have you done so far for DER-IC, and what will some of your tasks be once the North East Centre has had all its equipment installed?


JP: At the DER-IC I’ll be working hand in hand with the construction contractors and their own apprentices. I’ll be able to learn from construction engineers of both mechanical and electrical disciplines and also be able to trade experiences and knowledge with other apprentices from different companies.


When the construction phase finishes I’ll then be involved with managing the delivery and installation of over 35 different types of machinery, from circuit board manufacture to electric motor stress testing. I’ll gain experience working in and out of a cleanroom environment and get hands on training from manufacturers and specialists in all of this equipment.


When the equipment installation phase finishes, I’m going to be working with other technicians and engineers to carry out pre-planned maintenance activities to ensure the machines are maintained correctly. I will have to respond to any breakdowns and carry out reactive maintenance and fault finding activities, as well as doing breakdown analysis to identify the root cause of breakdowns and design and implement improvements to prevent these same faults occurring again.


I’ll be trained in engineering standards that industry use such as continuous improvement, TPM, 5S and more.


FH: Finally, what are your future career ambitions and how will your apprenticeship help you achieve them?


JP: I’d like to be in a Senior engineering position - I’ve enjoyed my time at the University and think it’s a great place to work, and working on projects like DER-IC will give me more experience to get there.


Find out more about DER-IC's equipment here.


Find out more about National Apprenticeship Week here.


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