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A mature student has praised University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre apprenticeship staff and his employer for helping to ‘reorientate and change’ his life after struggling with his mental health. 

Sam Redgrave is undertaking an advanced apprenticeship and is employed by NiftyLift, one of the largest manufacturers of mobile elevating work platforms in Europe. The 36-year-old has always had a passion for engineering and began working as soon as he left school, starting out as a car mechanic. 

However, he sustained nerve damage to his left arm after an accident, which made it more difficult for him to carry out this job. Keen to stay in a similar discipline, Sam began looking into what other work he could do. But being in his mid-30s, he was a little apprehensive about making such a big career move later in life, particularly after spending a number of years battling social anxiety and depression. 

“I have come to learn that my mental health battles won’t just go away, it’s something I’m always going to live with, but be able to manage,” Sam said. 

“I was diagnosed with depression when I was 16 and social anxiety at 30. I used to feel claustrophobic and would spend long periods of time not seeing or speaking to anyone.

“But it was thanks to my mum who helped to inspire and encourage me to pursue this new pathway. I was nervous, but I knew where my body was lacking in being able to do more physical tasks, my mind was still keen. 

“I thought a computer or office-based role, but still within some sort of engineering background would be an ideal next step for me. I was living in Norfolk at the time and struggled to find a suitable apprenticeship there – but I knew the Sheffield area had a strong engineering background and began looking into options there.”

Sam soon moved to Chesterfield with his mum and applied to a number of local colleges. The AMRC Training Centre was the only one to accept him and he started his apprenticeship there in September 2019. 

Sam is currently working towards his advanced apprenticeship in engineering and is due to complete this by the end of February. 

He said he owes a big thanks to the AMRC Training Centre for ‘giving him a chance’ when others wouldn’t and for getting him to where he is today, helping to pave his way to a career he loves.

“My mental health has definitely improved since I started my apprenticeship with the AMRC Training Centre and working at Niftylift,” he added. 

“Both my tutors and work colleagues have helped me to come out of my shell and become a person in society again and I can’t thank them enough for giving me a chance. They’ve helped me to re-orientate and change my life. 

“I am not saying it has been easy. There have been a lot of struggles and spinning plates - but I was determined to succeed, and the perseverance has paid off. I would encourage anyone to make a change at an older age if that’s what they want. Don’t give up, it is worth giving it a go.”

Director of the AMRC Training Centre, Nikki Jones, says it is a privilege to have Sam as an apprentice.

She added: “Sam has shown great courage and determination to progress in his studies with us here at the AMRC Training Centre. 

“Despite having personal struggles, we’ve had the honour of watching him grow, both in terms of the practical skills and knowledge he needs for a rewarding career, but also in confidence in his own abilities to be one of  the bright and talented engineers we need to power our manufacturing workforces.” 

Sam is an apprentice production engineer at Niftylift and works at the Hoyland site in Barnsley. His role includes ensuring the smooth running of production and devises ways to improve processes. He also has two additional roles, being a paint specialist and site survey engineer.

“When I heard about production engineering, I had no idea what it was – but after looking into it, I realised it suited me down to the ground as I love to look at system analysis and how to improve it,” Sam said. 

Bruce Fidler, production engineering manager at Niftylift, said: “During my time managing Sam, he has shown an attitude that far exceeds his position as an apprentice. He shows a great willingness to take on new tasks and responsibilities – not just to take a task to completion, but he also dives into topics to develop a deeper understanding. 

“His commitment has been exemplary, regularly changing his schedule around to meet the demands of the business during a very challenging year.”

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