From education to employment

Age no barrier for power apprentices

Experienced apprentice George Heath (credit: UK Power Networks)

Two dozen experienced apprentices are showing it is never too late to change your career path after taking a new direction with the country’s biggest electricity distributor.

The 24 power workers are set to complete their UK Power Networks apprenticeships, which started in 2019, in September of this year.

Speaking ahead of National Apprenticeship Week (February 8-14), two of the recruits have insisted age should never been seen as a barrier to anyone deciding on taking on an apprenticeship.

George Heath, 30, who is based at Harlow in Essex, found life as a postman in Enfield, London was not delivering for his career ambitions and is much happier with the package on offer to him now as an experienced apprentice overhead linesman.

George said: “I was in my late twenties and had worked for five or six years as a postman. I wouldn’t say there was one ‘eureka’ moment as such, there wasn’t one day when I decided, it was just something I considered over time.

“I didn’t mind being a postman at all, but in the end I felt it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more of a challenge and something with more responsibility.

“My brother Liam already worked for UK Power Networks, he is a jointer in London, and in the end I took his advice to give it a go and it’s a decision which has worked out really well for me.”

Ben Pegg, 41, who works out of the Downham Market yard in Norfolk as an experienced apprentice overhead linesman, is the eldest of the group he trains with, but embraces any banter because he reckons age is just a number.

Ben said: “Adult apprenticeships can be few and far between, but I knew it could be a great option for me.

“I’m sometimes known as the ‘old man’ of the group, but there are others in their thirties and most are in their mid-to-later twenties. There’s always going to be a range of ages wherever you work so being a bit older doesn’t bother me, it’s all good fun.

“By the time I finish this apprenticeship I’ll be 42 so I’m still going to have a good 20 years or more of my working life left, that’s a long time so for me it was worthwhile.”

UK Power Networks distributes electricity across London, the South East and East of England and has a range of apprenticeships with the foundation scheme aimed at school leavers, while higher and experienced apprenticeships cater for older ages.

Steven Read, trainee programmes manager at UK Power Networks, said: “Apprenticeships and traineeships have a huge importance to the future success of our business and we are always determined to make the opportunities we have open and available to all.

“The experienced apprentices who started back in September 2019 have shown that apprenticeships are not the exclusive preserve of young people, they can be taken on by different ages by people at different stages of their career who want to make a change.

“The coronavirus pandemic has been a hugely challenging period for everyone, but, like their other colleagues at UK Power Networks, our apprentices have kept going and continued to help keep the power flowing safely for our customers.”

Robert Halfon MP, who chairs the government’s select committee on education, said: “UK Power Networks’ apprentices are engaging with and enjoying an apprenticeship scheme designed to deliver a workforce for the future. Skills and apprenticeships are something I have always been passionate about because they offer a ladder of opportunity to jobs, security and prosperity.”

Last year also saw UK Power Networks launch a new Leadership Academy for middle managers made possible through the Apprenticeship Levy scheme.

Up to 600 line managers at the company are being given the chance to gain the new qualification of a Chartered Management Institute (CMI) diploma in leadership and management to support their personal and professional development.

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