From education to employment

Seeing an advert for National Grid’s apprenticeship programme changed everything for me

Nathan Hunt, substation craftsperson apprentice, National Grid

Young people are being asked to #LookBeyond the traditional routes into employment, and instead consider the diverse career options now available through apprenticeships.

This National Apprenticeship Week, now in its 13th year, the Government continues to call on employers and teachers to promote apprenticeships as viable career routes for young people, and the diverse benefits this unique type of training can offer.

One of the sectors that offers a range of exciting apprenticeship opportunities and careers is the engineering sector.

There are plenty of misconceptions about jobs in engineering, with only around one third of parents understanding what engineers do.

Through the Engineering: Take A Closer Look campaign, young people aged 11-16, their teachers and parents can learn more about what it takes to forge a career in the field – and the different routes in from graduate to vocational.

Nathan Hunt, 17, is 18 months into an apprenticeship with National Grid, where he is a substation craftsperson apprentice in Bedfordshire.

He was planning on going through A-levels, doing a degree and even a Masters before seeing an advert for National Grid’s apprenticeship programme changed everything.

What is your job and what do you enjoy about it?

I’m a Substation Craftsperson Apprentice, which means I’m responsible for helping to maintain and refurbish the equipment on site, along with monitoring the condition of the equipment so it remains as efficient as possible.

I enjoy my role as you get to see and work on the equipment that keeps the lights on, and I have real responsibility in my post.

Why did you go down the apprenticeship route?

I was planning to do the normal school ‘conveyor belt’ thing – A-levels, a degree, maybe a Masters – before moving into a career. But then, a year before my GCSEs, I saw a week’s taster course with National Grid advertised on our school intranet.

In the nicest way, if the Grid was laying a trap, I fell into it. I thought: ‘this is one of the best opportunities I’ve got’, so I applied for their apprentice programme and got through.

What qualifications did you have beforehand?

GCSEs including Triple Science, Maths, Further Maths, and Design Technology.

Why would you recommend an apprenticeship in engineering?

The great thing about an apprenticeship at National Grid is it really feels like I’m part of the decarbonisation plans for Britain. Part of my team’s work is about the capability of the system and upgrading our assets.

If we make it to Net Zero, as I hope we will, I know I’ll have done my bit. I also think National Grid really cares about their apprentices. The course is one of the best in the country and the pay is higher than other apprenticeship I know of.

Was there anything that surprised you about an apprenticeship?

It’s fair to say the work is more ‘hands on’ that I thought, but it’s the right choice for me. Our team moves around our patch and right now we’re working on Network Rail transformers, doing maintenance and overhauls.

What would you say to others thinking about a career in engineering?

Engineering is such a wide field, there’s a role for nearly everyone! Research some areas that stand out to you – there may be an apprenticeship or sponsored degree available for what you want to do.

What engineering myth would you like to bust?

We don’t know everything. We’re normal people and sometimes we don’t know something or get something wrong – although, saying that, we’re generally pretty good at figuring things out in the end.

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