These dockyard apprenticeships are shipshape and Bristol fashion.

The South West TUC has launched a campaign that aims to ensure that apprentices understand their rights as they enter the workforce. One company that they hold as an example of a good scheme is Bristol Port.

Apprentices benefiting from a high quality scheme at Bristol Port

David Brown is the company’s chief executive and says an apprenticeship at Bristol Port can lead to a job for life.

David sees the scheme as a route to the top, saying:

Providing you show the commitment, the tenacity and the integrity to work here, there is no bar no where you can reach in the company. Like everything in life, the more you put in at the beginning, the more you will reap at the end.”

As an example, he cites his general manager, who started as an apprentice, became a supervisor, a junior manager and is now the most senior stevedore on the dock. That’s good news for the latest influx of young apprentices, all eager to learn their trade.

The South West TUC spoke to a number of apprentices about their experiences at Bristol Port and heard positive view from the young workers at the dockyard.

Ben Harvey, 18, said:

When I finished Sixth Form I didn’t know what to do.”

I have an interest in electrics, so I applied to work here and I got the job. It’s good down here. I enjoy it, everyone’s welcoming.”

Lewis Hannam, 18, has been working here for just over a month.

It’s better than I thought it was going to be,” he says. “The people are so friendly and helpful. You’re never left on your own.” “I’ve been here a year and a half,” says Jake Watkins. “I thought it was better for me than going to university because it exposes me to real work, sets me up for a career.”

His colleague Ben Mogg used to work in retail before joining the Port. Ben said:

I was becoming bored with day-to-day life.”

It’s different here. It’s going really well, I’m learning a lot and life’s more exciting than it used to be.”

Connor Murphy said:

I’ve been here a year. I live in Weston and there aren’t many job opportunities there. I didn’t have the best grades in school, so decided to go for something where I was still learning, could build up my CV. It seemed ideal. The money’s good and I’m loving it so far.”

Bailey Harrington adds:

It was a brilliant opportunity to further myself as a person, as well as getting a career. It’s a challenge as well. It’s helped my confidence too.”

All music to David Brown’s ear. David summed up by saying:

The benefit to us is enormous because if you invest in people at an early stage in their career, that will be paid back in spades.”

Our apprentice programme ensures they get a broad base initially, so they get the chance to look at all the individual departments, then they get to specialise.”

If you arrive here as an 18-year-old, there is no reason why you can’t remain here in employment until you are 60 plus.”

This story was written by Tim Lezard and first appeared in the TUC South West’s West Country Workers.