Empowering our Apprentices: A Journey of Growth and Inclusion at Blaze Signs

Last week was National Apprenticeships Week in the UK, an annual event that celebrates apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses, and the economy. It aims to raise awareness about the benefits of apprenticeships for both employers and apprentices, highlight success stories, and encourage more people to consider apprenticeships as a pathway to skilled employment. Apprenticeships are important for a plethora of reasons, including.

  • Skill Development
  • Employability
  • Addressing Skills Gaps
  • Earning while Learning
  • Pathway to Higher Education
  • Social Mobility



This year we sat down with two of our apprentices to learn more about their journey so far in the five months since they joined the Blaze Team. Lauren and Archie are both Engineering Apprentices in our Metal Shop, an incredibly important part of the sign making process with the vast majority of our work spending time in this department. These two young engineers-in-the-making have been getting stuck in learning the artform that is letter making and the construction of large aluminium-based fascia signage, all while learning very valuable insights from their experienced colleagues. At the same time, they’ve been learning the general ins-and-outs of working in a UK based manufacturing business, spending time around the different departments and factories at our headquarters in Broadstairs.


Lauren and Archie were coming into their new roles with no previous experience working with metal, since it’s not often that schools have the facilities to teach this nor is metalworking part of the curriculum, so it was a mix of daunting and exciting for them to come in as a blank slate and learn from square one. It’s also a testament to Blaze’s ability to pull people in no matter who they are, with young people choosing us to kickstart their career.


However, with this lack of experience or skill comes the fear of failure and inadequacy, which luckily the metal shop department members have quickly been able to dispel for our budding apprentices, as they told me, “Everyone else is just trying to [make] you better… if I need help I can ask for it, or to double check something when I’m doing something myself…” Archie. “When I came in, I had no idea what to expect… But I think the thing that probably stands out most is how nice the people are here. Like how, like everyone is just so friendly.” Lauren.


Lauren performing some practice soldering


To see just how far Lauren and Archie have come in the short time they’ve been with the business, I asked them to take me through what they’ve been doing today and explain their process of bringing a collection of metal parts to a finished product of the metal shop. Lauren is working on letter making, an deeply precise and important part of the signage offering, where care must be taken in order to accurately bring a businesses typeface into reality.

“So, you receive the backing of the letter from the laser cutter, then you get the correct return, which is basically a massive [sheet] of metal and cut it the length you want it. Fit it around. And then you just have to shape it up with your palms and using the bending bars or fold the metal to make it on the corner or something like that. Once this all fits you need to permanently fix it on, only doing small bits at a time to make sure it doesn’t come out of shape, you need to be careful with how much you put on. Then you do the joints and sand out the joins to ensure it’s smooth and finished to a high grade.“


Sets of complete lettering on their way to the next stage of the process


Archie has been working with large sheets of metal to create the fascia panels found across pretty much any project we carry out, from Tesco to IMO Car Wash. “Well, the previous thing think I was working on was putting on slip joints so that the panels could join on site, and then welding them and then the current job is these triangular panels and then that is also just folding them up on the top and the bottom and then slip ‘jointing’ them so that they can all join together as well.” This process is a vital aspect of our work, and is widely used across our projects and clients, so having learned how to do this off-by-heart in just five months shows Archie’s’ progression.


Big Yellow Self Storage metalwork


Lauren also touched on the topic of diversity and inclusion when talking about work in the metal shop; as of right now Lauren is the only female to be working in this department, and she shared that she was interested to see how she would be treated when compared to the other members of the Blaze Team. “It was quite a proud moment, coming into the department and being the only girl – other than the Vinyl Department – in the factory, but everyone has been really nice, treating me like anyone else.”


Our organisations’ values are Safety, Improvement, Goal driven, Networking and Service – with the last value being particularly important in this context, we ensure that our team members strive to provide the best service no matter who it is. This extends far past our customers but to our colleagues too, we must ensure we treat each other with the best level of respect and kindness, otherwise it would be difficult to provide this for our customers. It’s fantastic to see the Blaze Team practice what they preach, treating everyone in the business the same no matter their gender or background.


The Blaze Signs & Cygnia Maintenance Shared Values


In conclusion, National Apprenticeships Week in the UK serves as a pivotal moment to celebrate the significance of apprenticeships in shaping the future workforce. Through the stories of Lauren and Archie, who have embarked on their apprenticeship journey with Blaze, we witness firsthand the transformative power of hands-on learning and mentorship. Despite initial challenges and apprehensions, their dedication to their roles underscores the invaluable role apprenticeships play in fostering skill development, enhancing employability, and bridging skills gaps within industries.


Moreover, Lauren’s experience highlights the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, demonstrating that gender should never be a barrier to pursuing one’s passion or career aspirations in engineering. By upholding our SIGNS values and fostering a culture of respect and kindness, we’re not only able to nurture the talents of our team members but also deliver exceptional service to our customers.


As we reflect on the journeys of apprentices like Lauren and Archie, it becomes evident that apprenticeships are not merely a pathway to employment but a catalyst for personal growth, professional development, and social mobility. Through continuous investment in apprenticeship programs and a commitment to nurturing diverse talent through the Blaze Academy, we can contribute to building a skilled and inclusive workforce for the future that bridges the skills gap that many UK-based companies are facing in today’s age.