Screwfix Trade Apprentice Profiles – Callum Abberley

Callum Abberley, a plumbing and heating engineer from Burton-on-Trent, won Screwfix Trade Apprentice in 2019. He stood out for his passion for helping elderly and vulnerable customers with their heating systems and shared a very personal story.

Callum always enjoyed more practical subjects at school, such as woodwork. After exploring various options and attending college open days, plumbing and heating jumped out the most. Callum says: “The main thing that attracted me to the plumbing and heating trade was the possibilities for the industry in the future. It doesn’t stay still; it’s always improving and that’s exciting in terms of career prospects. Now, for example, there is a big focus on making systems more efficient, as well as renewable technologies.”

Callum started his apprenticeship working for a self-employed heating engineer in his local area. However, in his second year of study, just 6 months after he competed in Screwfix Trade Apprentice 2019, his boss became ill, and the business was no longer viable. Unable to continue supporting Callum in his apprenticeship, he had to choose – leave the industry, find a new work placement, or go out on his own.

At just 19 years old, he made the brave decision to go it alone. He set-up CARE Plumbing & Heating whilst studying and completed his apprenticeship as a self-employed tradesperson. He said: “Winning Screwfix Trade Apprentice was a key reason for me being able to set-up on my own, as the prize bundle allowed me to buy all the tools I needed. In a way, it saved me. It allowed me to be able to stay in the trade I loved.”

Looking back at the process Callum went through during Screwfix Trade Apprentice, it was his passion for making homes safer, particularly for elderly and vulnerable people that stood out to the judges. He had a close relationship with his Nan, who suffered from dementia, so saw first-hand how the illness can make daily life dangerous for those affected. “I really saw her struggle and put herself at risk by doing things like leaving the tap or cooker on,” he says, “people living with dementia still want to retain a lot of their independence, but you also must be careful not to change too much either. In my Nan’s case, her gas cooker didn’t have the safety devices that new cookers have, so instead of putting her through the hassle of installing a new device, I installed a shut off valve on the gas pipe.”

“It made plumbing and heating a much more personal endeavour for me. I wanted to help other people who were in a similar position, looking at ways to make their homes safer to live in with adaptions such as shut-off valves and easy-to-use controls for the heating.”

Now, with a business built up over three years, Callum is looking to expand his portfolio and move into electrics. He adds: “I’ve recently completed a heat pump installation course and what I’ve noticed with renewable technologies is it isn’t just heating and plumbing skills that you need but also a knowledge of electrics. As my business focuses more on renewables, I think upskilling into electrics will really help.”

So, what advice would Callum give to up-and-coming apprentices in the trade? He says: “The thing that people forget about apprentices is that they are learning about the latest guidance and newest technologies. In a way, they probably know more than their employer in terms of the future of the industry.

“The first two weeks are the hardest as you try to get to know everyone and learn the ropes. If you want to be in this industry, all you can do is do your absolute best – and that’s one step further to getting where you want to be. Don’t doubt yourself.”

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