UK Power Networks have been joined by 28 career changers to build new careers on the power network.
A barber, zoo worker and a coastguard are among the recruits switching on to two-year experienced craft apprenticeships.
Over the next two years, they will retrain as overhead lines people working at height, substation fitters and underground cable jointers, becoming experts at keeping power supplies safely and reliably flowing for 8.5 million homes and businesses across London, the South East and East of England or work on electricity infrastructure projects at UK Power Networks Services.
Foundation apprentices complete the programme in three years, while those with experience from other sectors cover exactly the same course, intensively in just two years. College courses and practical skills gained at the company’s bespoke training centres in Kent and Suffolk, are practised under close supervision on-the-job.
Giving his job as a barber the chop, Ashley Poole, 34, from Essex, aims to become a cut above the rest, as an apprentice overhead linesperson in Purfleet. He previously worked in drainage, tiling, train building, barbering and as a doorman.
Ashley regretted leaving a course in electrical installations in his teens but says, “I’m here now with a lot more life experience. This is why I’m so grateful to get this position and I’ve been so excited to get started since I was offered the job.”
Former zoo worker, Samuel Newark, 20, from South London, landed an apprenticeship as a substation fitter with the commercial arm of the business, UK Power Networks Services, based at Heathrow.
He says, “I worked in the zoo’s education team and if the queue was long, we’d get out a massive insect or snail and teach visitors about the creatures. It was fun and I did that for just over a year. Before that I’d worked in an engineering job but there wasn’t much of a career path.”
Former volunteer coastguard, James Garrod, 30, from Clacton-on-Sea, works as a lifeguard in the summer. He joins the UK Power Networks team as an overhead linesperson in Colchester. James most recently worked for a family business, building TV news coverage trucks for live broadcasts.
He says, “I work as a lifeguard because I enjoy helping people. To be able to do that in this job is something I am very pleased about, where I can support and restore power to elderly and vulnerable people like my grandparents.”
He continues, “UK Power Networks is very welcoming and friendly, and the course is well organised. They have kept us well informed about everything, putting us at ease straight away. Everyone is equal and everyone is respectful, which is something I value for a company.”
Charlie Aston, Engineering Trainee Manager at UK Power Networks, says, “Apprenticeships aren’t just for school leavers and this year we’ve welcomed a total of 54 experienced apprentices. This group have reached a junction in their life where they want to try something new.”
Changing career can be unnerving but for many it’s a chance to follow their dream. In a survey of career changers, carried out by Joblist, 77% felt happier and 75% felt more fulfilled after taking the plunge. Charlie adds, “Our experienced apprentices view this chance to retrain while earning, as a ‘golden ticket’ which is an exciting gateway to the rest of their career.
“We don’t always know at 16 what we want to do when we’re 30 and we are seeing an enthusiastic pipeline of talent with itchy career feet who have transferrable skills, life experience and are waiting for that opportunity to gain new skills and experience in their chosen career.”
This autumn’s apprentices are the firm’s second cohort of 2023, which totals 54 apprenticeships and a similar number will be recruited next year. There were 907 applications for the latest 28 posts, showing strong demand for the experienced apprenticeship. Foundation apprenticeships continue to be an important part of the company’s strategy, coupled with experienced apprentices who are fast-tracked through the same programme in two years instead of three.