Apprentice Success Story - Mark Atherton 1976 - 1981

March 06, 2019

Mark Atherton, ex-apprentice (1976-1981)

Professor Mark Atherton was in the last group of full-time apprentices to complete four years with Rubery Owen in Darlaston. In line with National Apprenticeship Week we managed to speak with Mark who looked back on his years as an apprentice with us. Read his story below.

“I look back with great fondness at my RO adventures and am glad to be an ex-RO apprentice. This apprenticeship continues to be the bedrock of my career as a professional engineer. I have been an academic in Mechanical Engineering at Brunel University London, since 2005 and am currently Professor of Design Engineering. I have conducted many R&D projects in partnership with industry.

After twelve months in the Rubery Owen Training school, where I started in 1976, I spent four months in the RO Quality Control department inspecting Mini subframes and chassis parts for lorries, plus calibrating gauges and measurement instruments. I spent about twenty one months in the Maintenance Departments within various Divisions, working on the paint plants, overhead cranes, wheel welding machines and presses, including the gigantic Weingarten 4000 tonne press that would shake the canal. It was the days of CB radio and at lunchtime we used to communicate with lorry drivers on the M6. Five months in two drawing offices taught me vital skills in design, and I worked in Research & Development for six months at the Technical Services Department in King's Hill, having great fun testing wheels and special vehicles on old airfields.

When the works at Darlaston closed, I was kindly offered sponsorship to go to university but decided that a second 'apprenticeship' was not for me and went to Aston University under my own steam in 1981.

After Rubery Owen, I worked briefly for Driver Southall (GEC) in Walsall developing a new generation of check weigher technology, whilst studying for my mechanical engineering degree. I then joined Otis Elevator as a management associate in lift installation and service, based in London and Brighton, working on a special project for remote elevator monitoring.

Then I moved to Redland Engineering, designing roof tile products and high-speed machines to make them. I was responsible for designing a novel interlocking roof slate and innovative associated production machines. The Redland Cambrian is still in production today with over 200 million made.

After Redland, I then worked at London South Bank University for many years as a Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, rising to Research Reader, before heading to Brunel University London.

A Rubery Owen apprenticeship was a special experience and I have often reflected upon the people that generously shared their skills with the apprentices, which has equipped me to work on a wide and diverse range of projects. My sincere and deep gratitude to any of them that read this."

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