ABP: Engineering the Future

written by Danielle Stewart

Behind every great organisation lies an incredibly diverse and talented workforce. Leading into the future of port operations are a team of skilled apprentices; eagerly learning and adapting to the challenges of everyday life on the port. I met with James Drury, an engineering graduate currently in his final stages of his four-year apprenticeship with ABP.

Educated at Stoke High School and undertaking a subsequent Level 3 Extended Diploma in Engineering at Suffolk One, the progression from school to port in 2015 was a natural step for the 21-year-old – following in the footsteps of his mechanical engineer father.

Having already qualified in the academic aspect of the apprenticeship, James was able to add to his existing knowledge by undertaking an advanced version of the mathematical and electronic principle qualifications during one day a week spent at college. James admits that, whilst the basic principles of these qualifications help within his role, the vast majority of his skillset has come from carrying out on-the-job tasks.


On a regular day at ABP, James can find himself servicing cranes, resolving breakdowns, vehicle electrical maintenance and a whole host of other tasks. It’s not always easy, even with a wealth of knowledge and skills: James recalls an occasion when a digger required a new starter motor, but it was inaccessible due to its unusual design – so a panel was required to be cut out of the digger’s framework in order to complete the task. Problem-solving plays a large part in this complex role, and James often finds himself presented with challenging assignments to find solutions for. His favourite part of the job? Jumping in a cherry-picker to fix lighting towers!


James loves the variety ABP offers within its operations and enjoys working in a highly skilled and experienced team of engineers – the average age of the workforce back in 2017 was 49. The future looks bright (no pun intended!) for James’ career, and he looks forward to his hard work paying off when receiving his certificate of qualification in August this year.

To celebrate National Apprenticeships Week (4th – 8th March), ABP are giving their apprentices the chance to reverse roles – by spending one day shadowing a manager within the organisation, and the following day vice versa. Could we see Port Manager Paul Ager atop a cherry-picker this month? Watch this space!