Smith Brothers provides mature apprentice with life-changing mentoring opportunity

by Hannah van Rooyen

When it comes to forging a career in such a specialised area as high voltage power and electrical engineering, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve missed the boat.

But at Smith Brothers, we take on mature apprentices intent on learning a new trade, and put a lot of effort into supporting their development. These apprenticeships provide individuals with the perfect opportunity for a career transition, and also give our business an invigorating boost of new talent.

In this Q&A, Mark Bradbury, 36, talks about his job jump from chef to cable jointer, and explains why it’s never too late to make a drastic career change.

How long have you worked at Smith Brothers? I’ve worked here for nearly 3 years now, which has really flown!

What did you do before? Before becoming a jointer at Smith Brothers, I spent almost 16 years in the restaurant and banqueting industry. I held many different positions during this time, from executive chef to restaurant manager and owner, and was lucky enough to be trained by some of the best in the industry including Antonio Carluccio and Jean-Christophe Novelli. If there’s anything that being a chef taught me, it’s that with hard work, patience and willingness, you reap the rewards.

Why did you decide to make the jump from kitchens to cables? The culinary world is in my blood, so changing industry wasn’t an easy choice. Although I found the work rewarding, the hours were relentless – my family was growing and I eventually decided that I didn’t want to sacrifice my time with them anymore. In my new role I do work away quite a lot, but I have the weekends to spend with my family, and can put the kids to bed when I’m working closer to home. I’ve been really lucky that Smith Brothers has given me the opportunity to retrain at my age, and for that I can’t thank them enough.

What skills have you been able to transfer to your new role? I’ve brought time management, organisation, plus calculated and structured thinking to the role, along with people skills and personality! Having run restaurants with over 200 staff on the books and a high annual turnover, I’ve always had to be good at adapting and prioritising, and I’m certainly not scared of hard work. Even though I’m not a manager at Smith Brothers, I like that I have plenty of very dedicated and hardworking people alongside me in the team.

Have you undertaken any specific industry training as part of your mentoring? My training has been top notch, and I’ve had some of the best education possible from a number of great teachers. Everything I’ve learnt throughout my time here has really set me up to be a competent jointer, and I’ve also gained NVQ and Diploma qualifications.

Were you assigned a mentor within the team? Andy Horrocks and Jan Stott were my main mentors – they were brilliant with me and I gained so much from them passing on their priceless experience. There are many others within the team who deserve my thanks for their help and support as well – they know who they are!

What do you most enjoy about your role now? I enjoy that every day is different. The job is difficult but rewarding, and it’s great when you’ve worked hard to complete a job and it’s finally switched on.

Do you have any advice for other career changers? It’s hard to change career when you get to my age, especially if you’ve been in your role for a while. We all have priorities and worries, mainly being to support our families and pay the bills – I think these are the main reasons people stay stuck in their jobs even if they’re unhappy. Being content in your working life is important though, and if you’re not happy then you need to make a change. Retraining is a small sacrifice, but the rewards can be amazing.

To find out more about the current vacancies or apprenticeship opportunities at Smith Brothers, please visit

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