James Brearley started out as a joinery apprentice and is now a senior bridge inspector with 25 years experience of caring for our canals and rivers.
25 years ago I was working as a shop-fitter in Leeds, but I was unhappy with the pay and working conditions and this prompted me to look elsewhere. As luck happens, British Waterways (now the Trust) had advertised for a joinery apprentice to work on the Aire & Calder Navigation in the Evening Post. I applied by letter and was invited for interview a short time after. Throughout my childhood I had enjoyed numerous boating holidays and always had a keen interest in the canals.
Job title: senior bridge inspector
Length of service: 25 years
Apprenticeship details: City & Guilds Carpentry & Joinery + Advanced Craft (followed by further studies)
Training provider: Leeds College of Building and Leeds Met University
"I hope our current apprentices feel a sense of achievement and appreciate working in such a fantastic environment." James Brearley
It didn’t take me long to get settle it and the entire company had a homely, comforting feel to it – very secure. In fact I remember being told that career progression was possible as long as I kept up with my studies and continued to work hard. This helped empower me.
Work varied on a day-to-day basis. I used to skipper the boat for a time to enable the engineers to inspect the Yorkshire region and I worked in Stanley Ferry repair yard for several years as a young apprentice making lock gates. Generally, though, I worked on the canal bank with the Aire & Calder team, doing general repairs, lock keeping and so on. I have numerous funny stories but most can’t be repeated here.
I hope our current apprentices feel a sense of achievement and appreciate working in such a fantastic environment. I also hope they recognise that if they put the work in, there are opportunities within the Trust. We have a diverse skill-set and the people here are always happy to help new starters on their journey.
Last date edited: 3 March 2017