"The apprenticeship has given me more than independence, it’s given me experiences that you can’t buy. It’s been priceless."
Getting the right balance between building homes and growing communities in an ever-growing megacity like London is a delicate affair. A collaboration between the construction industry, Royal Borough of Greenwich and Greenwich Peninsula is giving local people the chance to shape their neighbourhood. As a new place in London unfolds, new opportunities present themselves. Careers and jobs sure, but also new experiences, new people to meet, a new swathe of London to put a mark on and claim as ‘everyone’s’. We caught up with trainee engineer Saugat Tamang about his experience so far with Bootcamp, an initiative that’s creating a new neighbourhood and helping the community gain career skills.
In Saugat’s words
When I look at myself in the mirror I now see an engineer. I’m not qualified yet but I’m working extremely hard to get there.
In 2011 I moved to the UK with my parents from Nepal. It was such a culture shock and a completely different life in terms of the culture, traditions and the way that people live.
I’ve had to quickly become more independent over in the UK. Over here you need to work to have freedom. My parents had just migrated here and were settling in, so they couldn’t really back me up financially, so it’s meant I had to work for myself to get some freedom and independence.
The apprenticeship has given me more than independence, it’s given me experiences that you can’t buy. It’s been priceless.
I took my GCSEs and A’ levels here in the UK and decided to go to university to study nutrition, but I dropped out of the course to focus my career on engineering. I found my strengths really lay in physics and chemistry.
It all started to fall into place when (Greenwich Local Labour and Business) who were giving me support and career advice, told me about the Bootcamp on Greenwich Peninsula. At the time, the biggest thing on my mind was to gain a futureproof career, where I could grow and pursue my dreams, secure my future and make my parents proud. I felt like the Bootcamp was a good option for me, but I didn’t go into it with a particular job title in mind – not even engineering.
All aspects of the Bootcamp were interesting, it was a great way to discover the right fit for me in terms of a career. The first day was quite a revelation. I’d never been on a construction site and never spent any time working outdoors, so it was very nerve-wracking.
But every day was varied the hours just flew by. Many of the tasks involved working in teams and this helped me to make friends on the scheme. As English is not my first language and I’m also dyslexic, it made things even more challenging, but I had to push myself to communicate with colleagues, and I eventually ended up leading teams. Since then my English has improved and I’ve gained the confidence to talk with people.
I was worried about getting things right, especially as we were working on a live site and there was a sense of responsibility, but our supervisors, mentors and lecturers were incredibly supportive. They were happy to answer questions and to help us get things right, no matter how many attempts it took.
When my work placement finished, I spoke to my mentors on the Bootcamp and explained that I wanted to challenge myself further. They agreed that I had the potential to do more, so they put my name forward for an engineering apprenticeship with VolkerFitzpatrick on Greenwich Peninsula, which I got.
It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. Greenwich Peninsula is one of the biggest developments in Europe – it’s like building a city within a city. I live only 15 minutes away in Plumstead, so I feel really privileged to be a part of this. There’s a road called Chandler’s Avenue on the Peninsula that I helped to build, which is right in front of the Emirates cable car. Whenever I go to that road in the future, I can say “I built that”. It’s not like cooking a meal which people can appreciate but it disappears, the road is there for the long run. I can visit it again and again. Plus, working on such a big project gives me a real sense of security about my future.
I’m working and learning while I work, and the industry (via the Construction Industry Training Board) is also helping me to gain my engineering qualifications – my ultimate aim is to get a University degree. My employer has already told me that they will cover the cost for all my qualifications, which is more than I’d hope for.
In December 2017, following a review of my apprenticeship, I was honoured to receive a permanent role with VolkerFitzpatrick as a trainee engineer. This was undoubtedly my favourite moment so far and it also made my parents so proud of me – which was always my aim.
And it all started with Bootcamp, which pushed me and challenged me and showed me things I could do that I wouldn’t have thought of myself.
I’m glad that the scheme is continuing with new people coming onto Bootcamp each year and more apprentices getting hired onsite. My advice to anyone starting Bootcamp is to be patient. Don’t expect to be able to do everything the first time. Or even a second or third. Some things took me 20 or more attempts before I could get them done perfectly. At first, I used to get frustrated, but then I realised the purpose of
Bootcamp is to discover and to challenge yourself. And the mentors, supervisors, lecturers are all there to help you. They’re very friendly and supportive – they want you to learn and to succeed. So be patient and expect to have to work very, very hard.
About ‘The Bootcamp’
The Bootcamp is an initiative that gives local people the opportunity to get on an eight-week training programme based onsite on Greenwich Peninsula. It’s open to anyone from age 18, and there’s no need for any qualifications. Much as the name suggests, it’s an in depth, hands-on training experience that covers most of the trades involved in the creation of Greenwich Peninsula, and most recently Upper Riverside, the latest emerging neighbourhood.
Neil Smith, the head of planning for Greenwich Peninsula explains, “as part of the transformation of Greenwich Peninsula, the idea is to not only build homes, but also to engage with local people and local businesses. We wanted to offer the opportunity for local people to gain life-long skills within the construction industry and become part of the transformation of the place.”
Participants will have a go at everything, from plumbing, tiling, bricklaying, electrical work and project management. He says, “our ultimate aim is to get people employed – ideally within projects on the Peninsula itself, or within the greater Greenwich borough.”
“Saugat is a perfect example of the idea at its best,” enthuses Smith. “He’s clearly got the capabilities required to develop as a skilled engineer. More than anything he’s motivated, and he sees the potential available to him there.”