Job Title: Electrical Installer
Employer: Ipswich Borough Contracts
To be honest I was a bit of a tearaway because I wasn’t academically focussed - and I wasn’t alone in this, lots of my mates weren’t. I wanted to work with my hands and learn practical skills.
By the time I got to my last year at school I knew what I wanted to do because I’d been on work experience with an electrician and I just knew electrical work was for me.
I’d seen friends complete apprenticeships and they always recommended apprenticeships. Being an apprentice was always top of the list for my next step.
I had to send a CV to companies across Suffolk and even though I was worried about my lack of work history, Ipswich Borough Contracts short listed me. Along with some other lads I was called in to do some tests and then we had a panel interview. I was extremely nervous at the interview but they understood - I was only 16 and it was my first interview but they obviously saw how keen I was because I got the apprenticeship.
Again it was pretty nerve wracking but after a short while I felt right at home. I started re-wiring houses with a team of really nice blokes. When you spend so much time together you all become good friends. You joke and banter with each other. I had to cope with being the new guy for a bit but it was all good natured fun.
I got given my own tools and protective equipment and a big old book of health and safety policies which looked daunting at first but when I got over its size, I realised it’s all just common sense.
My supervisor arranged everything with the college and gave me the dates I was expected to attend.
I started on £100 a week which paid for my driving lessons and driving licence and got me out and about. It felt great to finally earn some money and it increased every year.
It was pretty basic to start with. I did all the labouring work, chasing walls, putting up conduit, wiring sockets. All the while I wanted to do the bigger, more technical things but looking back I realise how important it was to get to grips with the basics first. After showing a lot of enthusiasm it wasn’t long before I was onto more complex things which put me to the test. Every 6 months I was moved to a different section so I learnt a great deal.
I’ve got a ticket for the rest of my life that no one can take away. No matter what I choose to do in the future I will always have these skills and these qualifications.
All the college staff had a good long-term experience in the trade so I gained a lot from them. They provided the theory behind what I was doing ‘on the job’ – on site I was told “Do this and do that” but the college really taught me why to do it. Also there are aspects of the job which I didn’t cover at work so college was important for that too.
During my years at Suffolk New College the electrical industry underwent a change in regulations so my company benefited from me being up to date with all the changes. I learnt things at college the chaps on site didn’t know – so I found myself teaching them new tricks.
Even though I didn’t feel particularly bright at school I now know that it was because it had no focus for me. At college I was interested in what I was being taught so I found studying much more enjoyable.
Level 3 Certificate in Electrical Installations (2330) and an NVQ level 3 plus I took an evening class in Inspection and Testing (2391) so I can sign work off.
I was an apprentice for 4 years which at the beginning felt like it was going to be forever. But it passed very quickly. What I liked the best was the sense of job satisfaction. To be able to look at a job well done and say “Yes, I did that” is a fantastic feeling. I also got to meet a lot of really interesting people including the teachers and students at the college and colleagues/friends at work. Obviously having your wages go up every year is always nice as well!
I am still working with the same company but now as a qualified electrician. Things have gone far beyond wiring sockets and bashing walls. Now I can find faults on 400V 20bar dual pumps and wire y-plan heating systems. More and more new jobs come up which I’ve never come across before which once upon a time I would have been worried about taking on, but now I love it.
An apprenticeship doesn’t just teach you how to do things but also develops the skills to take a logical approach when tackling these new things
I honestly don’t know at the moment. It feels like I’ve got so many options I don’t know what way to go. Possibly try and be self employed or learn another skill or even take off and go abroad. What I do know for certain is having the knowledge and experience to work with electricity from my apprenticeship, and having these bits of paper that say I am qualified to do so, it’s going to make things a whole lot easier and exciting for the future.