Job Title: Chairman
Employer: John Grose
I passed the 11+ but much to my father’s disappointment decided against the grammar school preferring Chelmsford Technical High School because it specialised in engineering. The Technical School was absolutely the right environment for me because I’d been taking engines to pieces since the age of 10, I loved maths and science and all the practical courses like woodwork and metal work. By the end of the 5th year, I took 10 O-levels and passed 5.
I caddied for a senior Ford guy and happened to tell him that I didn’t really enjoy school and was wondering what to do if I didn’t stay on and do A levels. He said “Look Ian, you need to start as an apprentice at Ford – you will get all the engineering you want, you’ll get paid and they’ll put you on an HND (degree equivalent) so you don’t need to worry about not having qualifications – this way you will get them”.
I am talking about 1979 – every year Ford took on 70 technical apprentices (you needed 5 GCE O Levels) and 100 craft apprentices (you needed 5 CSES). I applied for a place, I had an interview and was accepted for a 4-year apprenticeship as a Technical Apprentice in Mechanical and Production Engineering. For the first year I had to travel to college every day on my 49cc motor bike – 52 miles there and back – it was very tough in bad weather!
I got my green overalls and my identity pass and was introduced to Mr Patrick who looked after all 70 of us for the first year.
I was then enrolled at Barking College of Technology and Rush Green College, Romford. The first two years of my apprenticeship were college based – part theory and part practical. For the last two years we were placed in different parts of Ford Motor Company to learn from more experienced members of staff.
£28 a week take-home pay. I gave £7 a week to my mother who saved it up and gave it all back to me when I was 18. The money came in cash every week in a little brown envelope.
Year 1 - 3 month’s pure theory and 9 months of practical work. Our first job was to make our own tools – yes, I have tools and a tool-box that I made myself, screwdrivers, hammers, clamps, the lot!
Year 2 - 3 months in the classroom, 6 months practical work in college and 3 months working on a project for a charity. We had to design and make something useful and I designed a lift that enabled people who were temporarily in wheel chairs to be lifted out of them and onto their feet so they could start to recover their walking. It did work actually and was used in Oldchurch Hospital, Romford.
Year 3 and 4 –having chosen options I had placements in 4 different Ford locations
Being in a group of like-minded people and I loved the engineering part of the apprenticeship of course and I enjoyed earning money which meant I could pay my way. I also learnt I could succeed when given an opportunity to use my skills and put them into practice and this sense of achievement was important to me.
For the first two years my apprenticeship was based at Rush Green College. The college staff were fantastic – they managed the transition between school and work really well. I learnt to engage properly – school I had to attend but college was optional - the apprenticeship taught me about making a positive choice and opting in.
Several technical qualifications ending with an HND in engineering
The apprenticeship was 4 years. I felt a real sense of achievement and success on a regular basis by designing and making equipment that was really valued. And I got a pay rise each year!
I was now age 38 and Ford were starting to bring people into the company who had outside experience – I didn’t have this experience so with their agreement, I took a leave of absence to work in other companies myself and then return to them.
I want to get more apprentices into our company – we have 12 technical apprentices and 2 part’s apprentices already, but we plan to take on 6 more in a variety of other roles and all of them will have their training provided by Suffolk New College. I do lots of other things which I will continue to do in the future – for example, Chairman of Ipswich Borough Council Community Sports Network, Chairman of the Ipswich Sports Foundation, Member of Suffolk Employers Armed Reserve Forces and active fundraiser for Army Benevolent Fund and PARC additional needs school.