Jak Forester from Northwood, Stoke-on-Trent has gone full circle over the years, since becoming an apprentice he has gone onto teach apprentices and fulfil an ambition to do a degree at Staffordshire University.
Having left school with D Grades in most subjects he started his journey in 2008 with apprenticeship training provider, PM Training, trying out a few different trades including painting and decorating, plumbing and gardening on their work experience programme.
Jak’s memory of those early days is quite vivid, he said: “I remember the vans being really cold, it was a freezing winter and I wanted to continue trying different trades so asked about engineering, what it involved and how I could get on the engineering programme at PM.”
He quickly impressed the Engineering team and his eye for detail and confidence pushed him into doing introduction talks to new school leavers and being a shining example within the department.
His first piece of work on public display was signage at the opening of Mill Pond, Blurton in 2009, the team had given him the independence to work on his own and the artwork was cut out by hand, a time-consuming technique compared to today’s modern standards.
Jak became the first Engineering apprentice at PM Training and started a Level 2 qualification. A year later he was propelled into national recognition for his talents winning the National Apprenticeship Service Award ‘Apprentice of the Year 2009’.
He naturally progressed from his Level 2 onto a Level 3 Engineering Apprenticeship and by the age of 22 was a fully qualified Engineer.
Jak loved the challenge and continued to work on high profile public installations with his most proud pieces of work being a Saxon Shield at Longton, a Mayfly sculpture in Burslem Park and a Spitfire model on display at PM Training’s head office.
His next challenge led him to go full circle and having learnt from his tutors become a tutor himself and employee of PM Training taking an opportunity for a year secondment. At the age of 25 he began teaching Engineering.
He said: “I remember my first day at the front of the classroom, it was horrific. The challenges were far greater than expected. But I loved it. I loved talking to the apprentices, telling them about my experiences. It spurred me on to do a great job.”
The progression of students onto higher level qualifications and into highly-skilled jobs is a key objective for any training provider.
In 2015, Jak was an instrumental part of a bid from PM Training and group company Aspire Housing, becoming one of 11 national Social Mobility Champions. At the prestigious launch event, Jak met the then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and was representing PM Training as an example of achievement and progression since leaving school. An accomplishment that showed others what can be achieved with apprenticeship routes.
Jak had big dreams and continued with his progression eventually leaving PM Training after applying to Staffordshire University to do a degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Stoke-on-Trent campus.
In September 2017, Jak was back being a student having a CV that was full of experience, awards, teaching and a number of pieces of artwork on public display across the county.
Sarah Tudor, Director of Employer Partnerships at Staffordshire University says: “The progression of students onto higher level qualifications and into highly-skilled jobs is a key objective for any training provider. We understand that locally Staffordshire University play a leading role in the development of higher level skills, and being connected with employers, partners, schools and the local community has led to new opportunities for students like Jak.
A strong working relationship with PM Training encourages local students to progress onto degree-level courses and apprenticeships with Staffordshire University and Jak’s story is an excellent example of this."
He is due to graduate in 2020, but Jak already has an eye on becoming an entrepreneur using his engineering skills to do good for the environment after seeing the rate of plastic being used today. His creative mind is leading him down a plastic recycling invention where he is hoping his engineering skills will pay dividends and help to reduce plastic waste.
He continues: “I was amazed at the amount of plastic waste I was creating at home. I put my idea down on a scrap piece of paper and started to work on a prototype to see if my background and experience could help me a solve a problem.
“I’m excited about the future and have not doubt that my time at PM Training led me to Staffordshire University where my skills and talent are being harnessed to allow me to do many great things for my career.”
Sarah continues: "We’re proud to share his experience and I’m sure this will inspire the next generation of apprentices to progress with the University."