Beginning careers as apprentices

We have refined raw cane sugar and made Lyle’s Golden Syrup in Newham, east London for over a century. Apprenticeships and our apprentices have been central to our success for nearly as long.

Today, in the middle of Apprenticeship Week 2023, we share the thoughts and experiences of two colleagues, father and son, who both began their careers at Tate & Lyle Sugars as apprentices.

Neil Brown joined in 1989 and his son Mitchell joined in 2021 and is a current engineering apprentice.

Neil Brown, Maintenance Technician

You started as an apprentice at Tate & Lyle Sugars over 33 years ago, and your son is now an Engineering apprentice. Why did you encourage him to undertake an apprenticeship?

I was offered this fantastic opportunity many moons ago and have not looked back.

Apprenticeships offer a great opportunity to develop practical skills as well as gaining the academic knowledge that is required to become an Engineer.

It offers so much more to be actually doing engineering tasks within the workplace on real pieces of kit alongside knowledgeable Engineers who have lots of experience that you can learn from.

This was certainly the case when I did my apprenticeship 30 odd years ago I found it an invaluable resource to be able to work with real craftsman at the Refinery.

“What better way to get into a great industry where you can earn as you learn.” Neil Brown, Maintenance Technician


Mitchell Brown, Engineering Apprentice

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Mitchell. I’m 19 years old. I started my Engineering apprenticeship in September 2021 so I am half way through the second year of my apprenticeship. I do one day per week at a training centre studying my BTEC and 4 days on site at Thames Refinery.

Tell us about your apprenticeship

I am undertaking is a multi-skilled (electrical and mechanical) engineering apprenticeship, BTEC and level 3 NVQ. It’s a four year course with a mix of learning at a training centre/college and in the workplace.

Year 1 is at the training centre, learning basic knowledge and skills in a workshop to ensure you’re competent enough to be able to work in the workplace. Year 2 is mostly spent in the workplace, with one day a week at the training centre to achieve the BTEC. Year 3 and 4 are spent undertaking NVQ assessments – jobs that you carry out and keep a record of, and acting as a ‘trainee technician’.

Why did you do an apprenticeship?

I did an apprenticeship because I believe that apprenticeships are a good start to your working life. You can earn whilst you are learning which is a great incentive.

Do you think that your apprenticeship at Tate and Lyle Sugars is helping you develop skills for life?

Before I started this apprenticeship, my knowledge was very limited. I have been in this apprenticeship nearly two years now and I am learning and gaining more skills every day, such as how to use tools I haven’t used before or different techniques to complete a job.