Introducing Theo Buffery – Our new APS Apprentice

Say hello to our new apprentice

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me Theo. Vince tells me that it’s been extremely busy recently so I do appreciate you making some space in your schedule!

How old are you Theo, if you don’t mind telling us?

I’m 19.

And when did you join us as an apprentice?

I started my apprenticeship almost 6 months ago. The time has gone by so quickly.

Can you tell me a little bit more about your apprenticeship?

Well the apprenticeship I’m doing is TIRO’s Level 3 Lab Technician programme. It should take me between 18 and 24 months to complete, apparently, but there is a lot to cover! I’d prefer to refer to myself as an apprentice Chemist Technician as my day-to-day work involves the creation of unique formulas for our reconstituted stone rainscreen panels – Petrarch. Each particular batch has a specific recipe, which has to be carefully measured and blended. I’ve been learning under the careful guidance of APS’s Consultant Chemist, Trevor Snyman who has been just fantastic to work with. It’s great that I have the opportunity to develop skills in a subject I love.

Why did you choose the apprenticeship route?

When I finished school, I really wasn’t sure what to do next. I decided that perhaps The Royal Air Force would be a good option. However after a few months of basic training, I soon realised it wasn’t what I’d expected. I came back home and enrolled on a Level 3 Engineering course at college, and then covid hit. 

If I’m honest, I don’t think a classic academic route to learning would ever have been right for me. I enjoy learning whilst I’m working. I’m constantly challenging myself, and as a natural problem solver I like this aspect of my role as an apprentice. I don’t think a typical academic qualification gives you that same opportunity.

The apprenticeship allows me to gain the qualification I need to progress, while earning and learning at the same time. And I think this is the best way forward for me, I don’t like learning in a classroom environment. I prefer to be hands-on.

Tell me more about your everyday role?

I work under the direction of Trevor, who has already in this short time, taught me so much.  I also work alongside Chris, who is the Operations Manager and I’ve been involved in improving and refining our methodology. We’re constantly looking at ways to be more environmentally friendly and this extends to our recipes too, we’re working on an initiative to reduce our wastage. I’m really pleased to be a part of this process. Ecology and environmentally friendly processes are subjects which I consider to be important topic for everyone.

How is it all going so far? Have you come up against any challenges?

It’s going really well. Like I say, I have learned a great deal already from Trevor. I would say the biggest challenges are when it comes to the ‘reporting’ side of things. There is more administration involved in my role than you might imagine and so I need to develop my report-writing techniques. Trevor has been excellent in supporting me to do this. Streamlining processes and improving efficiencies is something I’m so thankful to be involved in, yet it does create challenges at the same time. I’ve helped re-order folders and support Trevor’s aims to use one recipe at a time in production.

What do you like about working here?

I like the fact that I’m challenged on a daily basis. It probably sounds a bit weird, but I do genuinely like solving problems and trying to exact formulas and recipes for our reconstituted stone panels, gives me plenty of scope to do just that. Although I am effectively a student, no-one makes me feel that way. I feel part of a team and my colleagues are truly supportive.

What has been your biggest highlight so far?

There have been a fair few! But I guess my biggest highlight is working with Trevor, he has been a real inspiration and an incredible resource. I definitely feel I’ve progressed as fast as I have thanks to his knowledge and patience.

And the biggest challenge? 

Has to be the report-writing, but I am getting better my course tutor tells me!

What skills have you learned that you didn’t have before?

Naturally I’ve developed my understanding of science and chemistry, specific to the development of construction materials. Initially I had this idea that it would be a classic lab environment, but it’s really not that. My work is varied, so I’ve certainly learned to multi-task. I’ve also refined my ‘precision’ skills. You have to have an eye for detail in what we do, and if we get a recipe wrong then we have to start all over again.

I think I’ve definitely developed my report-writing skills too, and learned so much more about Health and Safety in action, rather than purely academically – via my modules.

What does the future hold Theo? What’s your long term aim?

I’m really enjoying the apprenticeship, so I am very focused on this at the moment. I would like to envisage staying on with APS and developing new recipes and perhaps even new materials. As an ambassador for all things green, I’m also keen to look to ways we can be even greener. My ultimate goal is to follow in Trevor’s footsteps and become a Chemist. I’m fascinated by polymers and their potential and believe there are more possibilities for their application than we realise. I would love to develop this further and who knows even create a new innovation.

Tell us something we don’t know about you? What do you like doing outside of your apprenticeship?

I am fairly sporty, I enjoy going to the gym and go regularly. I am also big into my X-Box and gaming, and I’ve never lost my passion for creating scale models either. I have quite a collection!

Thanks Theo, we’re pleased to have you as part of our APS team and wish you all the best with your apprenticeship!

As an additional surprise for you Theo, we also took time to speak with your mentor, Trevor, who had this to say about your progress:

‘When I first interviewed Theo, I was instantly taken with how well-mannered, respectful and composed he was. Since joining the team as a Level 3 Laboratory Technician Apprentice, he’s truly flourished.

Theo joined the APS team at a very challenging moment, during an intense period of product development, and so my expectations were high from the outset. Regardless of this he has more than met my expectations; with a focus and keenness to learn that belies his young age. He has immersed himself in a tough routine. Working in a fast-moving workplace, he’s shown himself to be reliable and methodical in his approach.

Well done Theo and I am sure you’ll pass your apprenticeship with ease.’

Thank you for those kind words Trevor!

If anyone would like to know more about the power of polymers, take a look here:

Find out more about TIRO’s Lab Technician Apprenticeship here: