Tuesday 21 November 2017
Apprenticeships in the UK are booming: there’s been a 19% growth in the number of apprentices hired by British businesses this year. But firms offering apprenticeships need to ensure they are meaningful – then the apprentice, the business and its clients all benefit.
Effective skills development and industry experience is crucial. Just ask Michael Quirk, ITI’s operations manager whose 19 year career in telecommunications began when his own apprenticeship (with a long-gone Manchester/Scunthorpe firm) proved disappointing.
Quirk, 36, lives and grew up in Liverpool. On leaving school Michael studied Electrical Installation at college and then, aged 17, secured an apprenticeship in telecoms. “There was a gang of us,” he says, “I was one of the youngest.”
Sadly that apprenticeship was a poor experience “it wasn’t very well structured” and it was ultimately knocked on the head when the firm providing it collapsed, leaving Quirk and colleagues “high and dry.” But ultimately Michael secured a job with a firm working alongside ITI on BT OpenZone installations – and then, in 2007, he joined ITI. “I’ve been working with Dave Newton, Gary Kitchen and some of the crew for years now.”
That early career experience has been formative: Quirk is a passionate advocate for apprenticeships that are meaningful: “when I went into a management role at ITI, we took on three apprentices and worked really hard to provide a great experience for them. That was successful: one of them secured industry accreditation, a brilliant start to his career and has a great job here at ITI.”
Quirk’s own role at ITI has evolved considerably over the 11 years. “I’d been on the tools in the companies I’d worked for previously, and for the first 12 months at ITI. Then I got the approval to run a couple of projects for one of our long-term clients – these were really successful and it grew from there.”
From running projects, Quirk became ITI’s operations manager, and his “practical experience in the field” gives a valuable insight into potential challenges that projects face – and how to ensure projects run to plan.
Moving from project to operations management was “daunting, like anything,” but Quirk’s attention to detail, hands-on experience and customer-focused attitude means he thrives in the role. “I relish the pressure,” he says, “and I’m determined to maintain and exceed quality standards” (Quirk runs three sections of ITI’s quality “bible”).
Outside of work you could describe Quirk as a hopeless optimist because of his football preferences. “I’m a stern Everton fan, for my sins, so I’m going through a bit of pain right now,” says Michael, “I’ve been watching them since I was 8 years old and now I’ve got Joseph, my five-year-old son, his first season ticket – I hope that’s a good thing!”
Aside from keeping faith in football, Quirk enjoys keeping fit through running – he’s done the occasional 10k race – and, like many of his ITI colleagues, travelling.
Michael and wife Tracey visited China in 2007, “the year before the Olympics: the Great Wall of China was an amazing site to behold – and from a professional perspective the Bird’s Next Stadium is pretty impressive too.” They’ve also travelled to Indonesia, Bali, Malaysia (where they ascended the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur), India, the Caribbean and Brazil.
During Quirk’s time working for ITI he’s witnessed plenty of changes in Sheffield, “the biggest thing is how the city’s infrastructure has developed,” he says.
But his work doesn’t just mean shuttling from Liverpool to Sheffield across the Pennines: ITI’s project portfolio means that Michael has worked all over the UK and Europe. Quirk’s work with ITI has seen him travel to Germany, Paris, Gibraltar, Belgium and Holland. He recently enjoyed a quick family trip to Mexico for a well-earned break.
Michael enjoys all aspects of operational oversight and successful project deployment “there’s always something interesting going on in my job and this industry.”
Read these profiles of Michael’s ITI colleagues: