From education to employment

Career Switch Leads to WorldSkills for Alexander

A SERC Level 3 Fire and Security Apprentice is set to compete in the national finals of WorldSkills – often referred to as the skills Olympics – in Essex this November, but the path to success hasn’t always been straightforward.

Alexander Wallace (27), from Saintfield, said, “After my A Levels I went to Ulster University to complete a BSc in Information Technology.  Along with several students on the course, I struggled to find a work placement, so I spent the whole of the course on campus.  When I finished with a 2:1, I could not set off on the career path I had envisaged as I had no experience in the IT industry.

“Since school, I had worked part time in Tesco in a variety of roles.   I had kept this on beyond university and continued doing bits and pieces of IT work such as setting up websites, but I was also working with my dad, Malcolm, who is a joiner by trade. I quickly realised I liked variety in my work and being out and about on jobs.   I decided that I should build on the skills that I have and move across to work in the electrical industry. As I was older, it was difficult to secure an apprenticeship. I made enquiries through SERC and that’s when I heard about the Fire Systems apprenticeship.   The sector is growing, and it sounded like the perfect route to build on my qualifications and skills, get a trade, but also have a career with further opportunities.

Alexander added, “I secured employment with BPS and have been with them throughout my Level 2 and my Level 3 Apprenticeship in Fire Systems which I will complete next spring.”

No stranger to competitions, Alexander was one of six apprentices from SERC who competed in theIFSEC and FIREX Engineers of Tomorrow competition in May at the annual IFSEC International 2022 at London’s ExCeL.  His podium place in the annual SkillBuild held at CITB in June secured his spot in the national finals for WorldSkills, where he will be up against fellow SERC apprentice Jonny Hamilton from Bangor as well as other apprentices from across the UK.   Alexander says, “My employer, BPS, and the college and have been extremely supportive, providing additional training and mentoring and of course time for the competition, which is proving invaluable.” 

He added, “The biggest challenge will be working against the clock – time goes very fast when you are under pressure. Everything we have to do in the competition is essentially what you could face when out on a job, such as installing and commissioning an alarm system.”

The young man, who got married over the summer, adds “My wife Melinda is very excited about the competition too.  It is an opportunity to put my skills to the test, and there is also the opportunity to meet up with my peers from across the UK.”

Alexander concluded, “It took me a while to get to where I am, but the finishing line is in sight, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my apprenticeship. For anyone interested in a trade with good employment prospects, I would advise them to find out about the apprenticeship route to see where it can take you, and I would certainly recommend the Fire Systems Apprenticeship. The best thing is that you are working and earning, gaining a valuable and respected qualification, and you won’t have the burden of student loans or debt.”

Alexander competes in the WorldSkills National Finals 14 – 18 November in Romford and Dagenham.   Results will be announced on 18 November 2022.

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