Pair shun university for a crack at apprenticeships

Jaimee Dawson, left, and Dominic Callaghan at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy

Jaimee Dawson, left, and Dominic Callaghan at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy Buy this photo

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

WHILE his friends have spent the past few years partying and running up debt at university, 22-year-old Dominic Callaghan has been carving out a career in engineering.

Fresh from a four-year apprenticeship with Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, he has landed a full-time job in its materials research lab.

The former pupil of St Birinus School in Didcot, from Cholsey, joined the nuclear fusion centre straight after taking his A-Levels.

He said: “I looked at university but wanted more of a mix between practical and theoretical learning and didn’t want to be mainly classroom based.

“It’s very hands-on but you need the academic bit too, because if you are designing a piece of kit or a machine, you need the maths behind it to know how it is going to work.

“University is a completely different lifestyle but this suits me perfectly, because I feel a lot more secure.

“Many of my friends haven’t got a career path yet but they have had a lot of expense.”

For its work with Dominic and others like him, Culham has been shortlisted for the regional final of this year’s National Apprenticeship Awards and plans to boost the intake from five to eight new recruits a year.

But although the Government has heavily promoted this option since it came to power four years ago, Culham is not jumping on a bandwagon.

It launched the four-year apprenticeship scheme nine years ago and since then, has taken on almost 40 young people, including 19 working their way through the system at the moment.

All 18 who have graduated so far are still working at Culham.

One day a week, recruits go to Abingdon & Witney or Newbury colleges and work towards an HNC, HND or even a degree.

On the other days they work in different departments of the centre, ending with a final, one-year placement.

Not surprisingly, there is fierce competition, with 350 applications for each place.

Jaimee Dawson, 21, from Abingdon, is in her third year.

The former John Mason School pupil said: “My school was quite pro-university, but that wasn’t for me.

“My school head of year was surprised when I applied to Culham but my family were supportive, because they understood the value of the apprenticeship.

“My friends went to university and that was the right choice for them, but they are in quite a lot of debt.”

Stephen Hall, who runs the apprenticeship programme, explained: “We experienced a lot of difficulty recruiting the right people with the right skills, so decided to grow our own talent.

“Parents come in, meet the high-calibre individuals who are our apprentices and want their children to aspire to the same thing.

“From our point of view, it is an investment, in that staff who train apprentices get job satisfaction from passing on their experience and skills.

“Our apprentices bring enthusiasm, vibrancy and challenge the old ways of doing things, so there are many positives to having them around.”

  • Our top stories:

Jayden trial: Jake Blakeley tells jury his killer brother was evil

Oxford Mail: Jake Blakeley, 18, from Didcot

8:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

A TEENAGER accused of helping his brother bury the body of Jayden Parkinson wept in the dock as he was told to look at photos of the two graves.

'I'm glad my evil ex has been jailed for injuring me'

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

A WOMAN left with life-changing injuries after her violent boyfriend pulled her car’s handbrake on the A40 said she is glad the “evil” man has been jailed.

Johnny Mullins backing Oxford United's quality

Oxford Mail: Johnny Mullins

9:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

Johnny Mullins says Oxford United’s squad have the quality to get themselves out of trouble even without help from new signings.

Haggis and a wee dram on menu for Burns Night

Oxford Mail:

8:30am Saturday 24th January 2015

FAMILIES and friends across Oxford are coming together to celebrate Sunday’s Burns Night in style.

Delight at decision to replace whole water pipe in Normandy Crescent

Oxford Mail:

8:30am Saturday 24th January 2015

RESIDENTS have welcomed Thames Water’s decision to replace the water pipe running through a flood-blighted street as “a step in the right direction.”

A34 northbound re-opened after lorry crash

Oxford Mail:

8:28am Saturday 24th January 2015

THE A34 northbound between Marcham and Milton re-opened this evening after the road was closed when a lorry crashed into a ditch last night.

Comments (1)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

6:17pm Thu 24 Jul 14

Myron Blatz says...

Didn't they uswd to call this doing a 'sandwich course' in the good old days of proper learning? Strikes me that these two young people should live long and prosper!
Didn't they uswd to call this doing a 'sandwich course' in the good old days of proper learning? Strikes me that these two young people should live long and prosper! Myron Blatz
  • Score: -1

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree