When Harvey Barnes quit his university course, he was worried about what the future held. But two years on he is flying high, having won the company-wide Apprentice of the Year award from his employer, national homebuilder Bellway.
Architectural apprentice Harvey, 21, from Leicester, started his degree in architectural design technology at Wolverhampton University before Covid hit. But with the pandemic lockdowns, university was not the experience he had hoped for, and though he studied hard, it felt rather remote.
He left his course and for a while was unsure about his next step.
But he was keen to stay in the same subject area, as 3D design has long been a passion of his. So, he applied for an apprenticeship with Bellway East Midlands, based at the Meridian Business Park in Leicester.
“When I left uni I was worried,” he said. “That’s what made the apprenticeship so amazing for me – it was a real light in the dark. Bellway took a huge chance on me, but they looked at the work I had done on my course, and they gave me a chance. It’s the best thing that’s happened in my life.”
In the nearly two years since he began his apprenticeship as a Trainee Architectural Technician, Harvey has repaid Bellway’s faith in him, throwing himself into his work, learning from his colleagues and pitching in when others need help.
Architectural Manager, Chris Weston, put him forward for Bellway’s Apprentice of the Year Award because of his positive attitude, sense of initiative and proactive approach.
“Harvey has shown great character and confidence in his work. He isn’t afraid to push himself outside his comfort zone and he has a fantastic work ethic,” said Chris
Among Harvey’s responsibilities is heading The Green Team for Bellway East Midlands. This is a group that comes up with ideas from all areas of the business to make the company more environmentally friendly.
As part of this, Harvey leads meetings with representatives from different departments and makes presentations to the directors to explain the initiatives the team wants to put in place.
Harvey admits this felt a bit like being thrown in at the deep end at first, but he loved the challenge and has learned a lot from doing it.
“Doing an apprenticeship with Bellway has given me opportunities like this that just wouldn’t be available at a university,” he said.
“What’s rewarding is that you can easily see the progress you have made. And I’ve been able to develop skills such as presentation skills and my confidence has grown. I prefer doing an apprenticeship 10 times over compared to uni.”
But he says his time studying at university was not wasted as his work there helped him gain the opportunity at Bellway and allowed him to enter the apprenticeship at level 4.
Bellway has provided several mentors to help Harvey progress and around once a month he is out of the office and back in a college setting for a week, doing coursework and preparing for his exams.
“Bellway has put a lot of effort into me, and I try to give that back,” he said.
When he finishes his apprenticeship later this year, he is keen to stay with Bellway and progress through the company. “I want to increase my experience and make myself more valuable as an individual and as an employee. It’s about pursuing knowledge,” he said.
While the choice between university and an apprenticeship is different for everyone, he says, he would recommend an apprenticeship to anyone who wants to get a real life insight into how an industry works. “With an apprenticeship you get hands-on, in-depth experience,” he said.
Harvey said that winning the award was a big surprise as he hadn’t been focused on trying to win it. “It’s just the way I work naturally,” he said.
He paid tribute to the support he has had from his line manager Chris, the division’s Technical Director David Storm, and his colleagues in the technical department and the wider business who have helped him with his development in the role. He also thanked his mum Samantha Barnes, who encouraged him to investigate the possibility of doing an apprenticeship.
Getting the news of the award win was quite a moment though.
“I was completely blindsided by it, I was speechless,” he said. “I phoned my mum and dad, and they are very proud of me. Getting that news was really rewarding.”