’In just a short time I feel like I add value and can make an impact’
Oliver Shiels is a commercial and procurement apprentice at National Highways
I joined National Highways in September 2021 as a commercial and procurement apprentice. I’d previously worked a lot of different jobs over the last 10 years, from delivery driving, front of house to security. I had never had much opportunity to progress into a career where I feel like I am making any impact and I felt like I was just following a script and, coupled with struggling to do well in school, I never felt like I had the time or money to go back to studying.
The one thing that changed and caused me to make some personal and professional strides was getting a late ADHD diagnosis. I was able to understand myself better and manage my disability. I finally had breathing room and the clarity to work on a career in something I was passionate about.
I’d always had a keen interest in supply chains as I enjoy understanding the traceability and mechanisms in place for getting products from A to B. When I saw the apprenticeship in procurement at National Highways I had to apply. I had applied for other places, but they were complex, and I was made to jump through a lot of hoops. National Highways were different, it was straightforward and every step revealed more. I appreciated being able to read a lot about their core values and future plans due to them being a public-sector organisation. Their equality duty and understanding that everyone is unique led me to become passionate about this application and wanting to work there.
Thankfully I was successful and placed within the digital services and technology team, where I have been able to get involved in the procurement cycle of a handful of projects to compliment my CIPS course and reinforce my learning with hands-on experience, and not just shadowing others. One of my biggest projects was supporting and being able to successfully go to market to find a suitable supplier to provide 100 intelligent charging lockers for the radios our traffic officers use when out on our strategic road network. I was able to lead supplier engagement events and build a suitable contract. I even evaluated bids and conducted assessments to find the most economically advantageous supplier, all whilst meeting the regulations set by the government for purchasing.
I have been encouraged from day one to speak up, to check and challenge anything I don’t understand and learn that almost every interaction is built around offer, consideration and acceptance.
In just a short time I have felt like I add value and can make an impact in ways I could only dream of.
To find out more about apprenticeship training at National Highways, visit