Mike Smith’s apprenticeship happened after trying various academic routes, highlighting that there is more than one way to the same goal. 

By his own admission he went through a rebellious phase at school, leaving with disappointing GCSE’s. He went to Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College to retake his maths GCSE whilst studying A-levels in electronics and biology. 

Mike obtained his maths GCSE with top grades, but wasn’t enjoying the A-levels, so after a year he transferred to study a BTEC National Diploma in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering at Newcastle College. 

Mike said: “The BTEC was geared towards coursework rather than exams, which I preferred. I obtained an overall distinction and in 2003 earned a place at UMIST in Manchester to study for a degree in Electrical Engineering. 

“However, the lifestyle wasn’t for me, lecturers were thinly spread out over the week. I spent more time travelling than in lectures, so after a few months I left university and returned home. 

“My parents were keen to make sure I didn’t sit around at home, and I found a job at a supermarket. Management wanted me to enrol on the management programme, but I did not see my future in retail. I was applying for jobs and got one at a local security company, however it soon became evident that there was no training and no progression plan. 

“My dad suggested an apprenticeship and I got an interview with JPR Group. I was interviewed by the MD John Moran, who saw my potential and offered me the apprenticeship in 2004. John wanted me to have the grounding and knowledge of projects and understand how they develop from start to completion.”  

JPR Group is a multi-million company which operates across a variety of sectors from health and social care and education to manufacturing, retail and leisure and transport. 

Big name clients include Bet365, Seddon Construction, Equans Construction, Staffordshire University, Overbury and Stoke City FC. 

Mike said: “I really enjoyed the apprenticeship; the coursework didn’t faze me, and I excelled on the practical side.” 

“I sustained a knee injury outside of work and whilst I was recovering John Moran called and said he remembered I had studied CAD in my BTEC and wondered if I could assist another engineer, Neil Cresswell, with some project drawings. Neil and John took me under their wings and mentored me. I gained knowledge on using CAD in construction, various design software packages, procurement, and other key skills. They then started to give me small projects to run with their guidance as a Junior Electrical Engineer.” 

Mike’s career was now on an upward trajectory and in 2008 at John’s suggestion, he and another junior engineer were enrolled on an HNC in Building Services Engineering course at Stockport College. They passed with distinctions and then moved onto a foundation degree in Building Services Engineering and in 2010, they earned entry to study for a BEng. in Building Services Engineering at Liverpool John Moores University. All the time working full-time in an increasingly demanding project engineer’s role. 

“Mike said: “The degree studies were concentrated into a day a week which suited me and in 2012, I gained a first-class honours degree in Building Services Engineering. 

“I’ve now reached the role of Senior Electrical Engineer and I design and manage multi-million-pound projects, from concept through to handover, such as the expansion works at Bet365 Stadium and the award-winning refurbishment of the South Staffordshire District Council Community Hub in Codsall. 

“I love solving problems I have a job that I enjoy with the opportunity to carry on learning and progressing and I’ll always be grateful to Neil and John. Neil for passing on his technical knowledge and John, for spotting my potential and taking me on as an apprentice 20 years ago.”