An Apprentice’s View

The lubrication industry is a dynamic, innovative sector which has always attracted entrepreneurs and forward-thinking individuals.  However, the lack of young people taking up STEM subjects at school and university, the media frequently reporting on Industry 4.0, the internet of things and disruptive technologies and the chatter about the down-turn of the oil industry are not making things easy and companies are having to think differently about how to recruit new talent.

Organisations within our industry are coming up with new initiatives and are valuing their young people. Employers are now seeing themselves as educators which brings loyalty as well as a skilled work-force. Apprenticeship schemes, which have been seen as a rite of passage in Germany for many years, are now becoming recognized elsewhere in Europe. Schemes such as the UKLA’s Young Employee of the Year Award are raising awareness. 

Cameron Watts is employed by SBZ Corporation where 50% of its employees are under 30. Cameron shares his experience below, explaining why he believes taking on apprentices not only benefits the individual and the company but the lubrication industry as a whole.

“Whilst I was studying at school, I was fortunate enough to be offered two weeks of work experience during the summer holidays with SBZ Corporation, based in Wickford near where I live. I had no idea about the industry SBZ Corporation operated in and the role they played in it. My work experience was structured and well-planned out. I was shown around the facilities and given tasks to complete in each department.  It was very interesting for me to be in an environment which was so diverse. I had never seen a blending plant before and was surprised to a laboratory really being used, not just for lessons and experiments at school! I was extremely keen to learn more and was given many opportunities to do so over those two weeks. My willingness to learn led Laurence Holder, CEO, to offer me the role of a Sales Apprentice.

I joined SBZ Corporation in September 2017 having very little information about the sector and the challenges it faces moving into the future. After attending some industry events, it was clear to me that the professionals who work within this industry have a wealth of experience. I was not surprised, in most mature industries there is a mixture of experience and young talent coming through, bringing innovation and fresh ideas.

Having worked alongside colleagues in each of the departments at SBZ, it was the sales department that interested me the most and so it was arranged that I shadowed the Sales Manager, Reggie Disley for two months. Here I really enjoyed learning about the products and their diverse applications. I also enjoyed the customer service and building relationships. I was then given responsibilities of my own and over time, and with support from the team at SBZ Corporation, I gained enough knowledge to run some accounts. Since then I have been offered the opportunity to complete a 4-year degree program studying Chartered Management which I can combine with my work. To have the opportunity to gain work experience and learn new skills whilst studying for a respected qualification is very beneficial.

Laurence Holder has always been a staunch believer in having the right balance of experience and youth within an organisation. SBZ Corporation has a number of experienced professionals, some of whom have been in the industry for over 30 years. This is complemented by employing younger personnel such as myself who are on apprenticeship schemes and are being paid whilst we learn.  We all work together bringing different attributes to the party. Team building days are organised every now and again so it is not all work and no play! The investment SBZ is making in me makes me feel valued and motivated and in turn, I want to give my best to them.  In my opinion, the balance between youth and experience is crucial to the success of any business in the long term and certainly important for the future of the lubricants industry.”