For National Apprenticeship Week 2024, we catch up with some of Bachy Soletanche’s former apprentices to see where they are now and how their apprenticeship experience has helped shape their career. This first article focuses on Chris Cochrane, who joined the company as an apprentice electrician 13 years ago…..

I joined Bachy Soletanche as an apprentice electrician back in 2011. Within 10 years, after taking on various electro-mechanic roles across the world with Soletanche Bachy, I progressed to chief plant mechanic on HS2’s N1/N2 sublots in the West Midlands.

As an apprentice electrician, my role was to maintain, fix and install electrical systems on heavy plant such as piling rigs, concrete mixers and pumps, and crawler cranes.

I loved being an apprentice as I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge and developing myself. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I took it upon myself to complete my college course eight months early. My apprenticeship was an excellent introduction to the world of work, it taught me how to behave in a professional environment, as well as the importance of hard work and patience. Being able to work alongside studying made it a really interesting experience.

In the third year of my apprenticeship, I won Apprentice of the Year in the 2015 Ground Engineering Awards, which was an incredible achievement. I owe a large part of my success to my mentors at Bachy Soletanche who played such a vital role in my development.

Chris Cochrane Portrait
Chris Cochrane 1

As I entered my sixth year at Bachy Soletanche, I travelled to India to work for the Soletanche Bachy Group as an electro-mechanic on the Subansiri Hydroelectric Dam. This was the project that changed everything for me as it’s where I learnt all about mechanics. Situated on a remote camp in the depths of the Himalayas, this was one of the most challenging and memorable projects I’ve ever worked on.

After India, I went on to support several other international projects for Soletanche Bachy, including the Kuala Lumpur Metro in Malaysia, the Cairo Metro in Egypt and the City Rail Link project in Auckland, New Zealand.

In 2020, I returned to the UK where I spent a few years working on Thames Tideway Tunnel East, a major infrastructure project that Bachy Soletanche is delivering in joint venture with Costain and VINCI. After my stint at Tideway, I went back to the Bachy Soletanche Plant Yard to take on the role of lead electrician. This then led to becoming chief mechanic for Bachy Soletanche’s geotechnical scheme at HS2’s Old Oak Common Station, which we’re delivering in joint venture with Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering. Since then, I’ve moved over to our HS2 N1/N2 contract in the West Midlands. I currently look after a team of 10 mechanics and two apprentices who repair and maintain a fleet of piling rigs and other large plant.

In addition to my day-to-day role as chief plant mechanic, I’ve been a mentor to new apprentices since working on HS2 and I’d say it’s definitely one of the most rewarding parts of my job. While I always ensure my apprentices enjoy their work, I also hold them to high standards and make sure they’re safe and fully understand what they’re doing. I think it’s important to treat my apprentices in the same way that I treat the rest of the team. I make sure to keep them involved in everything that’s going on so that they can really get the most out of their apprenticeship.

Chris Cochrane 2
Chris Cochrane 3

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