Exciting careers for apprentices as HQ building work starts

Most apprentices don’t get a chance to ride on a fire engine, work in vaccine centres, and make a difference to communities across West Yorkshire.

Lewis Bell, front, with apprentices Emily Chapman and Spencer Peck.

But then, working with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) comes with a few exciting perks – as 22-year-old Lewis Bell has discovered.

After successfully completing his apprenticeship in ICT Project Management with the fire service he has now been nominated to receive an Employer Choice Award as part of this week’s National Apprenticeship Week.

Lewis works at WYFRS headquarters in Birkenshaw where construction work has started this week on the new buildings, following the completion of all groundworks. The ambitious modernisation plans will create buildings that generate 50,000kWh of sustainable energy every year through solar panels and will reduce carbon by 20 per cent.

Lewis, from Wibsey, said he started an apprenticeship after giving university a try. “I went to university to study computer science but after the first year decided it wasn’t for me, as I was keen to start work,” he said. “After you’ve had years of school and college, more studying at university just wasn’t appealing. I saw the apprenticeship advertised with the fire service and thought I’d give it a go.”

Soon after starting his apprenticeship he worked with other WYFRS staff to help during the pandemic, such as delivering food parcels and working in vaccine centres.

“I enjoy working with an organisation that makes a difference to people, and makes West Yorkshire a safer place to live,” said Lewis. “During the pandemic my team decided to join the volunteers, and this involved delivering food parcels and working in the vaccine centres. I’ve been to stations to meet the crews, and have had a real insight into the fire service. Last year I started as an ICT business analyst, which is something I’ve always wanted to do – getting this role came from my apprenticeship, and shows just how worthwhile apprenticeships are.”

Two apprentices that recently joined Lewis’ team at WYFRS are 19-year-olds Emily Chapman and Spencer Peck.

Spencer from Wakefield said: “I knew I didn’t want to go to university as it’s a lot of money to spend without getting experience in the workplace. Friends that have gone to university are really struggling financially, while I’ve been able to earn money while working and learning. For a while I worked in a warehouse, but then when I spotted this opportunity with WYFRS I decided to go for it.

"Working for the fire service isn’t like your usual desk job – you are out and about meeting people, learning about the organisation and doing work that will help make West Yorkshire a safer place to live.”

Emily said she was preparing to go to university to study sociology but decided the apprenticeship route would lead to a better career. Now she says she is enjoying a role that gives her the chance to make a difference to communities every day.

“Part of my induction involved going to one of the stations and seeing what the crews do,” she said. “I went to Dewsbury Station and did some of the drills, used a hose and went out to a fire to see what the teams did. You hear about what the crews do, but this was a chance to experience it. I really feel by working for WYFRS that I’m giving something back and making a difference.”

Chief Fire Officer John Roberts said: “This is an exciting time for the fire service as we take a huge step forward in our modernisation plans. The building work is already creating local jobs and training opportunities, and once work is complete we will have incredible facilities that will benefit our firefighters and support staff.

“We have heard from our apprentices and trainees that they are excited to be joining an organisation that is forward-thinking with ambitious plans for the future of the service. This is a message we hope will reverberate through the rest of the region as we continue our recruitment drive to find the employees that will continue to keep the people of West Yorkshire safe.”

Developers Willmott Dixon are aiming for the building work to be finished in early 2024, with employees moving into the office in the summer of that year. Staff currently operate out of Grade II listed Oakroyd Hall, which will be sold once the new building is ready.

For more information about a career with WYFRS visit