Onnec apprentice

Interview: Onnec’s Network Cable Installer Apprentices

In the second of two articles examining apprenticeships, Inside_Networks Magazine talks to Onnec’s George Bradfield and Asean Williams, who are undertaking the Network Cable Installer (NCI®) Apprenticeship with CNet Training, about their experiences as apprentices and why they have decided to join the digital infrastructure sector.


Why did you decide to become an apprentice and start a career in the network infrastructure sector?

GB: I never went down the university route because it wasn’t really my cup of tea. During the Covid-19 pandemic, when lockdown meant working from home, I spent time with a family member who works in the network infrastructure industry, talking about it and getting a general understanding of it. When it came to seeing this apprenticeship opportunity advertised I just thought, why not? I knew working for Onnec would present a lot of opportunities, so it would have been silly not to apply.

AW: I think an apprenticeship is a great opportunity to learn and earn at the same time. I jumped into this because I was eager to learn and I was particularly interested in the electrical field.

What did you know about network infrastructures before you applied?

GB: I had very little knowledge other than what my family member had told me. I wouldn’t say I had a proper understanding of it as I wasn’t doing it day in, day out, as I am now.

AW: I had some knowledge. I’d previously passed my Level 2 in Electrical Insulation through the London Construction Academy and I was looking for a way to get into site work, or do something hands-on while developing more skills in this area.

What do you hope to gain from this apprenticeship experience?

GB: The knowledge, skills and pure understanding to be the best engineer that I can possibly be. I want to learn as much as I can and progress as far as I can, because this is the career I’ve chosen, and I have a very strong interest in it.

AW: I haven’t got a fixed end point in mind. I’m just hoping that I can continue to make progress and keep developing as I learn.

The apprenticeship provides everything you need, from the basics up to the advanced skills, so you can learn to be the best professional you can be.

George bradfield, Onnec NCI APPRENTICE

Describe the application process? How were you introduced to your employer?

GB: Once I’d applied, I got a call from someone in Onnec’s human resources department inviting me to an interview. Dave Buchanan, Onnec’s operations manager, was there overseeing some practical tasks that were part of the interview, such as stripping a cable. The interview itself was interesting – out of all the interviews I’ve had, I’d never previously had to do any practical tasks. It provided a good insight.

AW: I immediately thought the apprenticeship sounded great and applied. There were multiple stages to the process – questions, an initial assessment, an interview – but I just kept going and pursuing it through the different stages. The interview was different to what I’d experienced before. It was more of a ‘think on your feet’ kind of exercise.

How is your time structured and do you think the balance between practical and theory based activity is adequate?

GB: I’m finding it to be a great balance. We spend Monday to Thursday on-site with people that have been in the industry for many years, and we get the chance to really pick their brains and see what we can improve on, learn how to do new things and expand our knowledge. We spend Fridays in the Onnec office completing our CNet Training tasks and internal Onnec department coursework, or attending workshops or regular progress review meetings.

AW: It’s a really good balance. In some working environments I’ve experienced, for example, working as a rail track engineer, you’re entirely focused on the practical and you don’t do any of the ‘behind the scenes’ paperwork and development. Having both really helps because it reminds me that, as much as we do the hands-on tasks, we also need to know that background work because it’s what makes the organisation tick. The balance means it’s not excluded, it doesn’t devalue the practical tasks and it teaches us how one helps the other.

What has surprised you most about being an apprentice?

GB: Genuinely, it’s the amount of support we get from Onnec because everyone across the whole company is very helpful and great towards us. Dave takes his time to phone us to see how things are going, talk about what’s coming up and ask how we’re finding it all. Whether it’s related to an installation or our coursework, if we’re struggling he sits down with us to make sure we understand. We have a lot of great support.

AW: I think the biggest surprise was just how much there is to learn. It’s not a case of pull the cable from that point and then test it – it’s so much more in-depth and there’s already a lot more I’d like to learn about and understand.

What would you say to anyone considering becoming an apprentice?

GB: It’s a great way to get your foot in the door. You can’t just rock up to a site, say ‘I want to do that’ and go do it. The apprenticeship provides everything you need, from the basics up to the advanced skills, so you can learn to be the best professional you can be. You do need dedication – it requires time and effort to succeed. It’s not just a case of turning up and in a year or so you’ll get a qualification out of it. You can’t jump from job to job like a regular 9-5 – you’ve got to commit to learning the skills and passing the qualifications, so you do need to have an interest in it. It’s completely worth it, so take the opportunity.

AW: I’m always encouraging friends to jump on apprenticeships. The ability to learn at a fundamental level and to progress in that role so you become very confident in it, is what makes an apprenticeship a very important opportunity. I would encourage anyone to pursue one. You’re not going to get a job in electrical or plastering or whatever if you have no knowledge of it. That’s just not how it works, unless maybe you know someone in that field. The experience I’ve gained through doing this apprenticeship has helped my understanding and shaped my development.

It’s not a case of pull the cable from that point and then test it – it’s so much more in-depth and there’s already a lot more I’d like to learn about and understand.

Asean Williams, Onnec NCI APPRENTICE

What are your career ambitions and are there any areas that you would like to specialise in?

GB: I’d like to pursue a fairly traditional route, becoming an engineer then lead engineer, working up to site supervisor, project manager and eventually operations manager. That’s my plan but other opportunities may arise, or extra training might take me down a different route. For now, I’d say becoming a site manager or project manager is something I’ve got my eyes set on.

AW: I’m always keeping my options open because I don’t know where I might end up. I’ve got interests at this point but I’m conscious I need to be diverse in what I can do and what I’d like to gain to give myself the best chance to succeed.

From an article in Inside_Networks published on 08 January 2024. Read the February Issue of Inside_Networks here.

About Inside_Networks

Inside_Networks is the leading online magazine dedicated to enterprise and data centre IT network infrastructure.


About CNet Training

International award-winning education company, CNet Training has been designing and delivering professional network infrastructure training programs since 1996. Today, officially the largest education provider in the world dedicated to the digital infrastructure industry, comprising the data centre and network infrastructure sectors, CNet Training is recognised throughout the world for being the global industry leader and the only industry dedicated education provider to award both internationally recognised Pearson qualifications and professional certifications, starting at entry level through to a qualification level 7 Masters Degree program.

Onnec are a CNet Committed Education Partner, recognising our commitment to education and skills development by enrolling employees onto the Network Cable Installer (NCI) Apprenticeship.