Apprenticeships give students skills for life

From steelworks apprentice to Raytheon UK chief executive, Jeff Lewis describes how an apprenticeship program guided his career 

Having begun his career as a 16-year-old engineering apprentice at an integrated steelworks in South Wales, Raytheon UK’s Chief Executive and Managing Director Jeff Lewis knows first-hand the impact apprenticeships can have on future careers.

For Lewis, an apprenticeship seemed to be the natural route to doing more of the activities that he really enjoyed, having spent his younger years working with his father and uncles fixing anything that was broken. Although he considered himself, “quite average academically,” Lewis loved the “practical stuff,” and found that once his apprenticeship begun, his attitude towards academia shifted.

“The apprenticeship boosted my confidence and led me later in life to believe if you’re actually motivated to do these things, you do better at it,” he said.

With 122,290 all-age apprenticeship starts in England alone for the 2022/23 academic year and enrolment figures for apprenticeships surpassing 5 million in October 2022, the program’s popularity highlights how they continue to grow as an alternative to higher education.

Raytheon UK CEO Jeff Lewis talks with a group of apprentices

Jeff Lewis talks with Raytheon UK apprentices about how he started his career at age 16 as an apprentice at a South Wales steelworks factory. Image provided by ADS Group.

Communication is key

Whilst his passion and enthusiasm for engineering remained, the realisation of being in a new, unfamiliar working environment was a daunting one.

Lewis found that working at a facility that operated 24/7, 365 days-a-year and employed c10,000 people producing steel both intimidating and a little scary, “I was on a team that had to ensure we kept it running,” he said.

Starting as an apprentice and eventually moving onto his final role as a maintenance technician, Lewis found listening to be the key to problem solving, “what they tell you is important in what you need to do to fix it. I really had to listen because they could tell me five things and I had to narrow them down and use logic to work out where to start looking.”

The differing routes we take in developing our careers play a big part in making a business better
- Jeff Lewis, CEO, Raytheon UK

Apprenticeship instils life-long skills and practices

Now, as chief executive and managing director of Raytheon UK, Lewis credits his apprenticeship for instilling life-long skills and practices that he continues to apply today. From what motivates people to how interactions and behaviours engage people, Lewis found it shaped his future thinking.

“Rolling forward to today, I’m passionate about there being multiple routes to start your career. For me, an apprenticeship fed my hunger for practical work alongside associated teaching theory and therefore, made my learning and development journey easier.

“The differing routes we take in developing our careers leads to a combination of different experiences in the workplace and these play a big part in making a business better,” Lewis said.

Raytheon UK trains more than 80 apprentices in areas such as manufacturing engineering, mechanical engineering, software engineering, project management and paralegal, in order to help train and develop the next-generation workforce, so they are set with future-ready skills.

“Today, my job is to bring all those different experiences together to get the best outcome that we can for Raytheon UK,” he said.

To learn more about apprenticeships and careers at Raytheon UK, click here.