Meet the Trainer: John Dacey

John is one of our most experienced trainers, specialising first in maintenance and then service engineering during his industrial career. After enjoying training new recruits and apprentices within his engineering roles, he took a leap of faith to become an apprentice trainer and has never looked back! We talked to him about deciding to share his wealth of experience with the next generation, what makes MTC Apprenticeships stand out from other training providers, and why the most important tool for an apprentice is an open mind.

What was your prior industrial experience before you joined MTC Apprenticeships?

One of the reasons I’m so passionate about the value of apprenticeships is because I started my engineering career as an apprentice myself! I completed a four and half year programme at the East Midlands Electricity Board, in their first intake of apprentices that spent the first year of their programme wholly training off-the-job in the training centre, just like we do at the AMTC.

After I’d completed my apprenticeship, I was head hunted to work at a plant producing carbon fibre as a Maintenance Electrician, which then led to new opportunities at organisations including Chrysler and the General Electric Company. After gaining a broad range of maintenance experience, I transferred my focus and became a Service Engineer at Kodak Heidelberg, progressing to UK Service Manager for their Graphic Print Division. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this role was also the start of my training career, because I created and delivered courses for new engineers at the company.

Why did you decide to become a trainer?

Kodak is sadly a prime example of what happens to businesses that don’t change and evolve through innovation and new technology. I took voluntary redundancy, and decided to look for a new challenge that would use my wealth of skills, knowledge and experience in a different way. I knew I wanted to stay on the tools and maintain my practical skills, but I now also knew how much I enjoyed and excelled at training new engineering recruits. I’d also found it really rewarding upskilling and mentoring the new apprentices that had worked alongside me in my various teams. So, I took a leap of faith and applied to become an apprentice trainer, and I have never regretted it!

What would you say are your career highlights?

Being promoted to UK Service Manager at Kodak Heidelberg was definitely a highlight, and I was also so proud to gain my first teaching qualification (which I continue to maintain) when I began my training career. But it’s coming to the MTC that has been the best move of my career. We are much more organised than many of the other business I’ve worked for, the strength and coherence of the team is fantastic, and the flexibility we have means we can rapidly adapt and improve things, which has really impressed me. I’m enjoying it!

What do you enjoy most about your training role?

The variety and challenge of the role – every day is different. When I first joined MTC Apprenticeships, I undertook training at FANUC, one of our employer and technology partners, and immediately gained new skills and knowledge that helped me to be a key part of the apprentices’ robotics training. Now I deliver a variety of units, and no two groups of apprentices are the same, nor are any two apprentices the same. You never know what you’re going to get – every learner has different strengths and weaknesses, passions and struggles, and the challenge and reward of helping them each to excel and fulfil their potential is fantastic.

How is the AMTC different from other training centres?

It almost goes without saying that the facilities here are second to none, but the key difference for me is MTC Apprenticeships’ agility. Everything we do is centred around putting the learner first, and if we see an opportunity to change and adapt to improve their experience, we are empowered to do it with minimum red tape, which is so different from some of the colleges I’ve worked with! The reason this is possible is the ‘can do’ attitude of both the management team and the other trainers – everyone pitches in and helps each other because we all believe in what we are doing.

What makes a good apprentice?

Without hesitation, it’s having a willingness to learn. If you begin your apprenticeship with an open mind and an appetite to try new things, there is no limit to what your apprenticeship can help you to achieve.

What advice would you give to prospective apprentices?

Come with an open mind, and don’t be too rigid in your ideas of what you’ll be doing at the end of your training because there’ll will be so many unexpected opportunities along the way. There’s a severe shortage of engineering skills in the UK at the moment, so the world is your oyster! Don’t be afraid of trying new things or taking new paths, because all sorts of different doors will open for you if you explore. If you’re considering an engineering apprenticeship then I would strongly encourage you to have a really good look at what we’re doing here at the MTC. The opportunities are exciting, it’s a brilliant place to learn, and a truly fantastic start to a career. I’m an experienced trainer, and this is the best training environment I’ve ever worked in.