From Apprentice to Director

Simon Wood picture

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, we will be shining the light on the fantastic opportunities an apprenticeship can offer you and share some of our amazing apprentice's journeys. Image removed.

Today we caught up with Simon Wood, Director of Estates, Facilities and Capital Planning to ask about starting his career as an apprentice, his experience and career highlights. 

When did you start your first apprenticeship and what apprenticeship did you do?

In another century, literally. It’s something I remember clearly because it was a big deal to be joining the grown up world of work, having just left school. It was the 10 August 1977 I had two options. Making turbine blades for jet engines or joining the Estates Maintenance Team at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. I chose the RD&E and did a 4 year mechanical engineering apprenticeship, maintaining a group of hospitals all over Devon.

Why did you choose an apprenticeship?

I actually wanted to be a pilot but I seemed to have an allergy to classrooms and was steered very heavily to something practical (thanks Mum, you were right).

What were some of your early challenges?

I loved all the practical side of maintenance but struggled with the study. But I was clearly very lucky as I had some people around me who, despite how reluctant and resistant I was, never gave up on me. Arthur Honey, the apprentice manager is one of 5 people from my life, so far, I will be eternally grateful to. 

What were your steps from the apprenticeship to Director at NBT?

I was always interested in doing new things and not worry if I was getting paid for them. I wanted to learn and get involved in engineering projects and intrigued by how management worked. Actually, this led to another difficult challenge. It was the 70’s and early 80’s and the workforce were very militant. I was seen as a turncoat and ostracized. But I wasn’t going to be put off, made a choice and joined the slippery slope down to management! There was a good route through Estate Management and I started at the bottom and through seizing opportunities and moving around the country to interesting jobs I progressed. One day 22 years later I landed the job here at NBT.

What has been your career highlight?

I have many really great memories of highs and lows. Some of the lows, staring into the workings of a silent generator and feeling the weight of 1000+ patients and staff sitting in the dark and cold. However, it has to be my involvement in the redevelopment of Southmead Hospital and the Brunel building. There aren’t that many Estates and Facilities leads across the country who have had the opportunity to influence a completely new hospital design and build. It was a big deal, and very challenging. But sitting in it as I write this, I couldn’t be more proud of what the whole team achieved and grateful to have been part of something so important in people’s lives and something so lasting. So much so I do consider it as ‘my’ hospital. So please take care of it!

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