Always a good time to change direction, jobwise – ask Amy…

05 February 2019

JTL is always on the lookout for new talent to come into the electrical and heating and plumbing industries and have more than 7,000 apprentices at various stages of their apprenticeships across England and Wales, but they’re not just looking for teenagers.

It’s a sad fact that with everything happening in the UK currently there is a widening skills gap in the electrical sector that needs filling. And as with most qualified jobs, it’s not something that can happen overnight. In the case of becoming an electrician you’re looking at four years of training, traditionally through an apprenticeship, which leads to the qualifications you need to become a fully fledged ‘sparkie’.

But it’s important that people realise it’s not just an opportunity for school leavers. For those in jobs, but not finding them particularly fulfilling, there’s the opportunity to switch direction and find a new way forward in life. Ask Amy Lister from Worcester. She’s 37 and despite having a good job as a manager at the Co-op that she enjoyed, she decided that she wanted to do something that gave her a real career for as long as she wanted one - and she really fancied becoming an electrician.

“I really wanted a hands-on job, something where I could use the skills I learned and grow into the work and being an electrician really appealed to me,” she says. “I signed up for a part time evening course at Heart of Worcestershire College initially, to give it a go and check it was really what I wanted to do.”

She took to it immediately and being proactive, sent a letter to 75 local businesses asking if would take her on as an apprentice – helping her to earn while she learned. One of the people she wrote to was Stephen Goodridge, who owns a Worcester-based electrical contracting firm that had been built up to become a thriving small business, but to the degree where he realised that he could really do with an extra pair of skilled hands.

Stephen admits he was fussy and wanted to take on someone he could train up to work the way he worked - much better for him than taking on a trained person who did things their own way and possibly had different standards. He applied to Worcester City Council’s apprenticeship grants scheme which awards a grant of £1,000 to small and medium sized businesses within the city towards the cost of hiring an apprentice and was successful.

The next step was the interview and Stephen was very impressed with Amy’s drive and determination and her willingness to switch from a safe job to one where she would be going back to the classroom – one day a week at college with JTL, which was the training provider Stephen chose to partner with. Then four days a week working with Stephen on jobs around Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

Amy began her apprenticeship in July 2018 and was expecting to be clearing up after Stephen for the first few months, but was pleasantly surprised to find that she was shadowing him on jobs and given the chance to go at challenging tasks like changing a fuse board pretty early on. She enjoys her day a week in college and being able to bring back the things she has learned in college to put into practice on real jobs, working alongside Stephen. They have been working on a project at Hereford Hospital recently and that has given her the chance to get involved in a wide range of electrical work – probably earlier than she had anticipated might be the case.

Amy Lister And Stephen Goodridge Combined

Goodridge Electrical is a limited company set up three years ago and Stephen uses subcontractors on many jobs which gives Amy additional experience working alongside other qualified professionals, which is all part and parcel of the learning process for an apprentice. And it’s part of the job that Amy enjoys.

Amy has the maturity not to be put off by working in a male dominated environment, although she admits she thought long and hard before signing up to her original part time course where she was the only female. Her view is that there should be more young women encouraged to work in the electrical and wider construction industry in the UK: “It would be great to see more parents encouraging girls to pursue electrical careers,” she says. “The salaries are very competitive once you’re qualified and there will always be work for you – I’m convinced this is the best decision I have ever made work-wise.”

That’s a view that JTL agrees with hugely and as a business it does its best to attract more young women into the electrical and heating and plumbing sectors. It has invested heavily in an Ambassador programme that sees young women across England and Wales who are currently apprentices agreeing to undertake school visits, talk at careers shows and exhibitions, even appear on TV and radio to talk about the options available to women in male dominated areas of the economy and it’s been a success, but there are still far too few women in the electrical sector with less than 1% of those involved in the sector being women.

Speaking to Stephen, it’s clear this is preaching to the converted: “Amy has been great so far and I’m delighted that I decided to take her on,” he says. “She’s got a great eye for detail and she’s picking up the work we do very quickly. I seriously believe that women customers – particularly those who live on their own - really feel so more relaxed with a woman electrician in their homes. I can see her involvement making a real difference to the business. The work we’ve been doing at Hereford Hospital has been an eye opener as she has been doing a lot of the work in female wards – and that has gone down really well with the hospital and the ladies in the wards.”

What would his advice be to other small businesses like his considering taking the plunge and taking on an apprentice? “Just do it! Unless you want to work on your own for the rest of your life and be limited in what work you can take on…and find yourself a good partner like JTL to help you through the paperwork and the processes – it can look a bit daunting at first, but with a little help it’s not as difficult as it looks!”

A final word from Amy’s Training Officer at JTL, Oliver Schofield who is there to help and advise her whenever she needs him: “She’s a delight to work with and it’s great to see Stephen and Amy working so well together. Amy is clearly very determined and willing to learn. Being a little bit older, she comes with huge drive and determination and a real will to succeed. Maybe the surprising thing is that more women of Amy’s age don’t feel drawn towards a career in electrical work or heating and plumbing. They clearly have many attributes that men don’t and can offer a very real and welcome alternative for women, particularly older people who need to invite tradespeople into their homes. I hope that Amy is perhaps the first of many we can welcome into our industry sector.”

Amy Lister and Stephen Goodridge

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