Learning on the job – my apprenticeship so far

22 Nov 2021
BY Dave Salisbury

Learning on the job – my apprenticeship so far


I started my apprenticeship with Zicam on the 6th of September and, so far, it’s been great. When I saw Zicam’s recruitment advert I did some research about the company and what I found out interested me a lot. Also the college course – Level 3 for Fire and Security – that goes along with the apprenticeship sounded really interesting. I’m starting from scratch in the security and surveillance industry and I think this is the best way to do it.

Out and about

My first day at Zicam was all about getting paperwork done, but then the second day I was straight out on site meeting everyone, so I started learning almost from day one. I’ve already worked away, shadowing one of the experienced engineers; I learnt a lot there because we were on site for a whole week so it was like continuous learning and I could really get involved.

(Louis, left)

On site, the Zicam engineers show me and the other apprentices what to do, tell us how to do it and then we go and get on with the task. If we’re unsure at any point they encourage us to ask questions, but if we feel confident they just leave us to get it done. Then we’ll test the equipment together to make sure that it’s done to standard so, for example, if we’ve cabled a camera and it hasn’t worked the engineer will review it with us, show us where we went wrong so we get it right for next time. It’s a really good way of learning – if you’re shown something it’s a lot easier to learn.

One of the areas that’s interested me the most so far is the CCTV cameras. When they’re all installed it’s amazing how much they can see and what detail they can pick up. The software is quite hard to understand, but when you do you find there’s so much you can do with it. As well as monitoring sites, they can also be used for things like marketing. Supermarket managers use them to monitor areas of the shop so when they identify shoppers going repeatedly to an area where a popular product is displayed, they will change for a less popular product to increase the sales. They can watch people’s reactions and quite often they will still buy the less popular product just because it’s in that spot.

Training and qualifications

The apprenticeship is a good balance between classroom-based textbook learning and applying it to real life when you’re out on a job. I wouldn’t like to be only doing the college side of it, this way I get the best of both worlds. The first term at college is all about learning health and safety so we know all the risks and then the second goes into more detail about the job, covering things like cameras and intercoms.

I’ve done the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) training already, which is about working on and operating cherry pickers. I’ve also done the Texecom intruder alarm training where we learnt about software and hardware and how they work. Zicam is really good at putting you forward for interesting courses, it’s not just their engineers they train, they include all the apprentices as well.

Travel and variety

I really like the diversity of the jobs that I’ve been asked to do on site but it has been challenging remembering how to do them all because they’re so varied! It’s only been a couple of months though, and I know that the more I do them the better I’ll get.

One of my favourite parts of the job has been visiting all the different sites. One day I’ll be working locally in the West Midlands and the next I could be at the other end of the country. I like the travelling and getting to experience different areas, it keeps things really interesting.

I’m looking forward to the rest of my apprenticeship and staying in the industry long term. I’d definitely encourage other people to do an apprenticeship – if you get in with a good company you never know where you might end up.

Louis Boxley, Apprentice Engineer, Zicam Integrated Security Limited.

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