Maritime UK: Meet the Apprentice

There are big decisions to be made as you choose your career. As a small business, taking on an apprentice was also a big commitment for us. We were lucky to have had the support of the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights which we found through British Marine.

Our Apprentice, Mac, was interviewed for Maritime UK.

Mac Bierowiec learned an important thing at university – that the degree route simply wasn’t for him. He gave up his course and went travelling in Australia for three years, teaching himself some mechanical skills and working in a series of garages along the way. Back in the UK he focused on vintage car restoration.

And then, aged 24, he found his niche – as an apprentice at Seadub, the Southampton-based precision engineer company which serves the superyacht and marine industry.

Mac says he has always been passionate about engineering and all things mechanical. However, as a capable student at school he was steered firmly towards university.

“At school we were told that if you are bright you will go to university … and even if you scrape in, that’s OK,” he says. “Apprenticeships were presented in such a bad light, portrayed as only for less able kids. The message was that if you were not going to university, you were no good. That is totally wrong, because it strangles people.”

Seadub is a relatively new company, having been set up in 2011. Mac was introduced to owners Chris Whitwam and Katie Charge. “I emailed asking if they would take on a slightly older apprentice with some transferable skills – we had a chat, I did a trial week, and I started my apprenticeship.”

Mac works in all areas of the business four days a week and spends one day a week at college, where his course covers CNC machining, maths, physics, drawing, health and safety, and other topics.

An NVQ assessor comes to see Mac in the workplace once a month.

“It will take two years for me to achieve my Level 3 NVQ, and after that I would love to have further progression lined up with a college together with Seadub’s support – Level 4 is a further two years,” says Mac. “It has been a revelation – applying the theory to the physical work and being involved in the whole process, from design right through to manufacture and testing, including some really large projects.

“Seeing something through from start to finish, rather than just slotting into one department or one part of the work is so rewarding. We work with a variety of materials, including aircraft standard aluminium, titanium and stainless steel. Nothing gets ‘samey’ – the variety is really enjoyable.”

Mac, who moved from his family home in Suffolk to take up the apprenticeship in Southampton, says: “It is a shame there hasn’t been more focus on apprenticeships.

“I wish I had done something like this straight out of sixth-form. An apprenticeship like this means you are so well set for the future in terms of skills and experience.”

The original interview can be found here.