Tideway is celebrating National Tunnelling Day by recognising the achievements of the first cohort of outstanding Tunnelling Operative Apprentices who are finishing their apprenticeships this year.
In early 2018, Tideway and its main works contractors and sub-contractors launched a scheme offering Tunnelling Operative apprenticeships with a view to helping attract new talent to the tunnelling industry.
It was the first time such a scheme had been offered in the sector, made possible by the support of TunnelSkills – a training specialist in the tunnelling industry.
The apprenticeships were devised to allow a new generation of tunnellers to train alongside some of the most highly skilled and experienced professionals in the industry.
“It was a much-needed change of scenery for me in my life,” says Connor Keeney, who was awarded one of the tunnelling apprenticeships and is currently working on the central section of the project.
“It was great to take on a new challenge as I've never worked on a job like this before, so it’s been very interesting. I didn’t ever expect to work on a project of this scale, it was a big shock at first however it has enabled me to learn so much.”
It’s been a particularly extraordinary year for Gareth McCracken, Tunnelling Operative Apprentice employed by Tunnelcraft on the west section of the project, at Carnwarth Road.
Gareth has been working in various roles on the tunnel boring machine and he describes his highlights of his time on Tideway – including seeing himself nominated for an award.
“The last year has presented different challenges but all round it’s been very successful.” he said
“The TBM has completed its 7km drive to Acton and I’ve gotten closer to completing my apprenticeship. The icing on the cake for me is to be a short-listed finalist for the upcoming New Civil Engineer - ‘Young Tunneller of the Year’ - awards.”
Tideway has a target of having one apprentice per each 50 members of staff and these apprenticeships reflect their ambitions of attracting new talent to the sector, including from our local communities.
Upon the imminent completion of their Tunnelling Operative apprenticeships, these apprentices will become a fully-fledged tunnelling operative, able to assist with the excavation, support and forming of tunnels and shafts.
Morgan Clarke is from Reliable Contractors, one of five labour suppliers for Tideway, and mentored several of apprentices throughout their apprenticeships.
“Tunneling is a very difficult industry to break into. It requires a lot of skill and rarely holds any entry level opportunities. It has been absolutely wonderful to enable new starters to the industry to be exposed to so many elements of tunneling on such a grand and historic project.”