Liam Hanson, quite literally, is one of the leading lights to come through Hartlepool College of Further Education in recent years.
Now 21, Liam left Wellfield Comprehensive School in 2010 with a handful of GCSEs in his back pocket.
But it was a distinction grade in a BTEC Level 2 Construction which was his most important qualification, and having seen his dad and both grandads work in the construction sector he knew exactly what he wanted to do.
“My dad was a welder, one of my grandads was a senior contracts manager and the other was a steel erector,” said Liam.
“I think it just grabbed me, and from a very early age I wanted to follow that on. I did think about going to university at one stage, but when I was 16 I went to Hartlepool College of FE and did a BTEC Level 3 in Construction & Built Environment.
“A lot of it was classroom-based, but we did get out onto sites and did some hands-on surveying. I just jumped in with both feet and knuckled down because I really wanted to go down the civil engineering route.
“In 2012, on the last year of my course, my tutor Ian McNeil told me about an apprenticeship scheme that Hartlepool Council were running in civil engineering. I fancied it, and thought I had nothing to lose.”
Suited and booted, Liam went for an interview at the Civic Centre and made such an impression that he was offered the job just half an hour later.
“I think they could see how keen I was to be honest,” he added.
“I had a construction knowledge, I gave the correct answers to their questions and I think I presented myself well and appeared confident. I also remember telling them how much I wanted the job, and how important it was to me.
“At that stage I had two months left on my course, but any time I had off college I was spending at work. It was only £2 an hour at first, which isn’t a lot obviously, but it wasn’t about the money for me. I knew that would go up the quicker I developed.”
Liam’s first role saw him working with the street lighting team, and he was then moved onto the customer services team where he improved his communications skills by dealing with various complaints from residents.
He added: “Once I’d learned that side of the job, I was back out getting involved with lighting problems, the installation of the LED street lights, things like that. I learned as I went along but by that stage I had a greater understanding of it and was allowed to coordinate jobs for contractors.
“I’m on the top wage for an apprentice now, I’m earning more than £1,000 a month.”
Liam will complete his apprenticeship in December, but has opted to take on a two-year extension which will take him to a higher level.
Having already pocketed NVQ levels 3 and 4 in civil engineering, he is working on an NVQ Level 5 at Hartlepool College and an HND Level 5 – both in civil engineering – at Durham College.
“My overall target is to be a supervisor, then progress to be a manager. I want to lead rather than be led, I always aspire to go higher,” said Liam.
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, the Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “The Council places a very high importance on its apprenticeship programme and at any one time we can have up to 60 apprentices working in a range of disciplines across the council.
“Liam is a shining example of the progression that young people can make and he is our first apprentice to progress to a Level 5 Higher National Diploma (HND).
“The contribution that our apprentices make should not be under-estimated and many have gone on over the years to gain employment with the council and other employers.”