Thurrock apprentice set to be in pole position with UK Power Networks

FOUR apprentices from Essex have put their careers in pole position, training to be electricity linespeople with Britain’s biggest power distribution company.

Rebecca Larsen, who is 28, from Orsett, Alexander Bass, 31, from Clacton, Scott Jones, 26, from Clacton, and Jamie Alden, 24, from Harlow, will be expertly trained in the specialist skills that keeps the lights on for local homes, schools, hospitals and businesses.

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They are among 16 new apprentices at UK Power Networks learning how to safely climb electricity poles and fix, maintain and connect overhead power lines. The company has over 46,000 kilometres of overhead power lines, which help deliver electricity to more than eight million customers across the South East, London and the East of England.

The trainees have started a two-year apprenticeship following rigorous standards, including a qualification in electrical power engineering. Their core training and college work will be completed at the company’s dedicated training centres in Suffolk and Kent and they will put their new skills into practice from depots in Purfleet (Rebecca), Colchester (Alex, Scott) and Brimsdown (Jamie).

When they qualify, they will provide an essential service keeping power flowing in their local community. There were over 1,100 applications for the company’s two apprenticeship schemes which will offer about 36 places this year.

Rebecca was working for a security company when she first applied for the apprenticeship. Without relevant experience she wasn’t successful the first time, but she persevered.

She said: “I had a ‘light-bulb moment’ and decided I would try again once I had gained relevant experience by training as an electrician. I completed a fast-track City and Guilds course at Barking and Dagenham College, which I finished a week before joining UK Power Networks. At one point I fitted three jobs around college, so I felt drained and don’t know how I did it, but it was worth the effort.

“The electricity industry is exciting and this an exciting company to work for. Without highly-skilled people doing the jobs that we will learn to do people wouldn’t be able to go about their daily lives. I will feel proud providing an important service to the community, keeping people warm and well.

“There is sometimes an assumption that girls want to be hairdressers, retailers or work in an office, but that is not the case if you have an engineering brain. When I was a kid I wanted to take things apart and put them back together. Women might not give themselves a chance to show what they can do so I would love to get more women interested in science and engineering.”

Alex has worked in the electricity industry for 15 years. He said: “I was really excited to get the job. This is a life goal and I have been applying to UK Power Networks for about five years. I have been an electrician since I left school but I always wanted to work on the electricity distribution network and for me this is my dream job.

“I will be repairing and maintaining overhead cables on the electricity distribution system, keeping the lights on so customers have a continuous electricity supply. It’s imperative people have electricity, there is a massive dependency on it, so a job like this is something to be proud of.

“I have always been analytical and technical with electrics and computers. I’m hands-on, technical and like problem solving. It’s what I’m good at. I feel great to be working here because I don’t want just a job, I want a career that will last me until I retire. One of the core values on this company, which I like, is integrity. I want to be part of this business and gain more qualifications as I go along, that’s a big factor for me. I’d like to get to the point where I could apply to the Institution of Engineering and Technology for Engineering Technician status. That would be a happy me!

“In 25 to 30 years I can see myself teaching because I would like to pass on my passion, drive and energy to youngsters following in my footsteps.”

Jamie said: “I was very happy to get the job as I have been applying to join the company since I was 18 and I got there in the end. My role will be to keep the lights on by transporting electricity to where it is needed. I’m not afraid of heights but it will take time getting used to it.

“When I watched a video about the company it gave me a sense of the pride in doing this role. We are first on the scene when it comes to helping people who have no power. I would like to be competent in my trade, then increase my skills as an underground cable jointer. I want to be with the company a long time. I don’t like sitting in the same place so this job is perfect for me.

“The company has a good vibe and I hear nothing but good feedback from anyone who works here.”

Scott, who previously worked on highways resurfacing, said: “I was massively excited when I found out I got the job. I already worked for UK Power Networks and really liked the company.

“I love the idea of working with electricity because it’s essential for everyone. I really want to be part of giving that service to the public and helping to keep the lights on.

“Everyone has been incredibly welcoming and friendly, and you’re able to learn as everyone is very receptive and no one makes you feel silly for asking questions. I’d love to eventually learn jointing as a second trade to follow in my father’s footsteps. I love learning more so I can’t wait to see where this job takes me.”

Steven Read, trainees’ programmes manager at UK Power Networks, said: “Ensuring that we have skilled crafts people working on our distribution network is key to ensure that our customers’ electricity supply is maintained. The recruitment and training of apprentices enable us to grow our skills base, which is important in our industry.

“Our chosen candidates should be proud of their success. It was a highly competitive process and we always look for a very specific type of person who will have the dedication and ability needed for these crucial roles.”

UK Power Networks currently has 90 apprentices completing training with the company. To view a video about the roles the apprentices will fill at UK Power Networks click here.

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