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July 6, 2021

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Apprenticeships

Security installation firm reaps rewards of investment in young talent and apprentices

Hear first-hand from Mike Alley, Director at Ambush Security Systems, on the success his firm has seen from investing in apprenticeship schemes and training for its engineers.

Mike and Tracey Alley, Directors, Ambush Security Systems

Here at Ambush we provide tailored security solutions to NSI gold standard to both commercial and domestic clients across London and the Home Counties, including alarms, CCTV, access control, entry phone, gates, shutters, barriers and smoke detection. I started the company in 1998 with my business partner at the time, we acquired Jaguar Alarms in 2005 and the same year Tracy joined the business as Co-Director. Now we have a team of 15 members and growing, with a keen focus on training and developing our staff and recruiting young talent.

The benefits of apprenticeships

Ambush was fortunate that the government assisted apprenticeship scheme coincided with our need for staff. This gave us the opportunity to train young people for a City and Guilds/NVQ. We originally tried sourcing our apprentices via schools, however we didn’t have any response to our letters – so we looked elsewhere. We approached our friends and friends of friends asking if they knew of any school-leavers who may want to work in the industry.

With over half a dozen or so engineers being trained-up from apprentice level over the years, we really believe in giving young people opportunities. In this industry, practicality is paramount so when a youngster gets in contact we first consider their enthusiasm and practical ability. Historically, when we’ve been in a position to give someone a chance to succeed, we have. I started out myself as an apprentice 42 years ago, progressing in the industry and eventually creating Ambush. We have been really happy to take on school-leavers and would’ve very much liked to add a female engineer to our team, but to date we have been unsuccessful in our search for someone.

The most experienced senior member of our team, Sam Rodway, has been with the company since 2004 starting as an apprentice, and 17 years later has worked his way up to become Technical Sales Director. Whilst another team member Billy, who was a greens keeper, started as an apprentice after his father asked me if I could trial him with a view to employing him. He was with the team for around eight years prior to leaving to start his own business – such is the strength of our training at Ambush.

Another example is Alfie, who wasn’t happy training as a plumber so we trialed him for two weeks. Alfie fitted well into our team, liked our work ethic and was attracted to the industry so joined us as an apprentice in 2014. He attended college on day release and acquired his City and Guilds – Alfie is now a lead engineer training others to Ambush’s high standards.

View from the apprentice

Joe, a former apprentice and now Lead Engineer for Ambush, offers some advice for other apprentices.

“As far as enthusiasm goes, one thing I would say is always turn up for the interview. When I went for my first interview at Ambush, I got off the bus and got caught in a downpour – it was only a 10 minute walk but when I arrived I was soaked. It was really embarrassing, but at the end of the interview I was thanked for not putting it off as it showed strength of character and enthusiasm.”

“Apprenticeship schemes work for lots of reasons, but I think one of the most important is the step by step learning you receive from qualified engineers who started in the same way. It means they understand how it feels to be a trainee, and that certain jobs are straightforward, while others need more understanding and practice.

“I’m really lucky that all the engineers I work with at Ambush are good teachers and also, when I first started I used these practice boards they’d made to help with understanding stuff when it was all totally new. I think the best thing about working in a small company is that you can take the next step as soon as you’re ready – independence is scary but it means you’re improving, which is really good.”

“For the last year and a half I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at Ambush, I feel myself exceeding  in every area of the industry, the continuous support and working with others is what I enjoy  about working at Ambush.”

On top of the apprenticeship training, we book all available industry courses – this keeps the team abreast of new products. Our ethos is to give regular training sessions internally as well as externally. When available, the team visits manufacturers such as Pyronix, Texecom, Dahua, Hikvision and Paxton to attend courses; covering everything from installation best practice to product knowledge. This is extremely important to us.

Two of our engineers, Bradley and Joe, who joined in 2019 are both great examples of Ambush training. Brad, who had had some former training has excelled in systems integration – we recognised this talent and built upon it. This benefits Brad as well as Ambush. Joe, came to us from an entirely different field but with electrical training, so, whilst he’s still learning, he’s coming on in leaps and bounds.

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