Rhiannon McGhee says the sky’s the limit as an apprentice  

Rhiannon McGhee
Rhiannon McGhee says the sky’s the limit as an apprentice

Age: 21

Role: Apprentice Health, Safety and Environment Technician at Hardstaff Barriers

Stepping onto the career ladder can be difficult and daunting for a young person, especially if you have taken the decision not to go to university. 

As a fresh-faced 19-year-old, when Rhiannon McGhee applied for the position of Safety, Health and Environmental Apprentice at Hardstaff Barriers, she had no idea where the opportunity could take her.

Many of her friends had opted for Higher Education, but Rhiannon decided that she wanted to get straight into work while learning at the same time. As an academic person herself, it felt like turning her back on university was a risky step to take. 

But, as she tells us here in her own words, she couldn’t have chosen a better career path and she is now looking forward to a full-time role with Hardstaff Barriers which will begin when her apprenticeship comes to an end. 

Hi Rhiannon, please can you tell us about your current role?

Currently, I am a Safety, Health and Environmental Apprentice (SHE Apprentice for short!) and I have been for just under 2 years. My main responsibilities lay with Hardstaff, supporting operations with risk assessments, sending them to clients and writing or amending them. Also, my focus is on ensuring the appropriate Safe Systems Of Work (SSoW) are all in place and are up-to-date, and finding areas that require them. I conduct monthly audits on the compound to ensure our compliance with regulations and work closely with management to solve any concerns or safety observations made by our fellow colleagues. We are committed to being a Covid secure workplace, and I am also in the Covid Team for Hardstaff. We have been working very hard and closely to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect our staff from Covid.

How did your Hardstaff apprenticeship come about?

I was browsing on the Gov Apprentices website and the advertisement for Hardstaff just appealed to me and stood out. I was very excited when I was asked for an interview. The Service Manager, Kathryn was keen to get me on board which made me more than happy to become an addition to the team.

What opportunities has the apprenticeship provided you with?

I have worked very closely with driven, hardworking individuals to adjust to the construction environment, amongst working with my very knowledgeable team which has helped me grow into my role. With opportunities to go out and learn first-hand what we do and how we do it with safety at the forefront.

I have been provided with training to further solidify my knowledge of subjects, such as Highways Fundamentals training, HAVS and Noise Exposure, a whole array of E-Learning and seminars and time for my coursework (in between a busy schedule). And still, I have no doubt that I will go on to do further training with the generous opportunities given to me.

What is the best thing about working for Hardstaff?

It is a completely different environment from what I imagined I’d be in 4 years ago! I have met some lovely and knowledgeable people. Not only that, but colleagues have welcomed me into my role and environment exceptionally well. So, mainly the people I have met along the way. I look forward to growing with them and working with my colleagues (SHEQ Team) and other departments more closely. I’d like to mention that our wellbeing is very important here. There is so much thought put into mental health and wellbeing – which is what makes this job completely different from previous jobs I have had. It is never the wrong time to admit you need help or are having a bad day, our team is very supportive of each other if we are struggling. Our management is very understanding of our good and bad days, especially with the events of the past year, and we have grown closer.

What are you most looking forward to in your career?

Getting to the end of my apprenticeship. It is coming pretty fast so it’s time to get my head down! I have enjoyed the apprenticeship itself, and I am looking forward to the further training and opportunities afterwards.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship to other young people?

Absolutely. I was 19 when I applied and all my friends had gone to University. As an academic student at the time, deciding not to go to university was a big deal. But with apprenticeships you still learn everything you need to know for your future career and more (And get paid at the same time, which most see as a bonus!) In fact ,what isn’t often mentioned is that I feel like I have had a head start in my career by choosing this path. 

I have no regrets in pursuing an apprenticeship and if you feel like you do not want to go to university, regardless of your skillset, I think an apprenticeship would be a fantastic place to start. Hardstaff Barriers, based in Nottinghamshire, is a multi-award winning manufacturer and supplier of vehicle restraint systems (VRS), hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM) barriers, perimeter fencing, concrete security barriers and access gates, which are all designed to keep people and property safe.

Hardstaff Barriers is proud to be one of more than 350 companies that are members of the 5% Club. Having signed the 5% Club charter, Hardstaff is committed to developing the business and its people to further their professional skills. 

What the Hardstaff Barriers Management Team said:

Kathryn Cooper, Service Manager, said: “It’s been a real pleasure to work with Rhiannon over the last couple of years and to see her confidence grow within the company.

“Rhiannon is a valuable member of the team who works hard and has really thrown herself into her apprenticeship.

“We are delighted to have been able to give her the opportunity to grow her career within Hardstaff Barriers.”

“Rhiannon is a valuable member of the team who works hard and has really thrown herself into her apprenticeship. We are delighted to have been able to give her the opportunity to grow her career within Hardstaff Barriers.”
Kathryn Cooper, Service Manager, Hardstaff Barriers