Former JTL apprentice goes back to the future

24 November 2015     JTL

Back in 1999, a young man called Tony Quinn from Rainham in Essex, decided, after a short period of work-experience as a plumber, that he’d like to be an electrician. He’d watched them working on site and come to the conclusion that electrical work looked more interesting. And cleaner. And maybe a bit easier …

How wrong, but also how right, could he be?!

No-one in Tony’s family had ever worked in the building trade so it really was a leap into the dark for him. Initially he contacted JTL to see if he could take some tests to find out if he would be accepted on an electrical apprenticeship. So he took the JTL Entry Assessment, and he passed.

Now, almost 20 years later, Tony runs his own company – TQuinn Electrical & Building Services based in Hornchurch, Essex – which is currently in the process of converting what was previously a bed shop into an impressive, brand new training centre at JTL’s headquarters in Orpington, Kent.

“I was surprised but really pleased when JTL accepted me for an apprenticeship. It’s funny how things turn out,” says Tony.

“In those days before the internet and social media, it was a case of ploughing through the Yellow Pages to find a company prepared to give me a go and take me on. That was EJ Ross, owned by a man named Eddie Ross, based in Brentwood, Essex.

“My first job was in an office refurbishment at the Scandinavian Bank in Cannon Street in the City [London], and on my first day it was straight in at the deep end, using the threading and bending conduit. I had no electrical knowledge but I did have some experience of hand tools from my plumbing days, so I picked things up quite quickly and started to learn new things each day.

“In those days it was six weeks onsite and two weeks in college on block-release for the next three and a half years. Tony Christie from JTL was my training officer and he was really good at helping me learn the logbook and go through assessments, always there to offer advice on the college and portfolio side of the apprenticeship. I found it very difficult at the beginning and wondered if I’d made a big mistake, but once I’d got past that first hurdle I started to really enjoy it.

“Over the next four years I spent about 95% of my time experiencing a wide variety of commercial contracts in central London, new instalments in schools and also some domestic work. It was a great learning curve. By the time I finished my apprenticeship I had learnt so much working alongside some of the best electricians I have met, still to this day, who helped me all along the way. I learnt something new every day and was fully qualified in just about every aspect of the job apart from electrical testing 2391, which I completed in 2011.”

As soon as Tony had finished his JTL apprenticeship he decided to go self-employed straight away as a sole-trader working for a variety of big electrical companies including P.I.P. Electrics in Basildon, Bancroft in Ilford and McDonald Brown in Beckton, east London.

Tony’s early experience as a sole-trader covered a range of work just as wide as his apprenticeship and he continued to learn every day – so much so that, in 2010, he felt sufficiently qualified and experienced to start his own company. Over the last two years, Tquinn Electrical & Building Services has developed and expanded so rapidly that Tony has been able to employ four people, including a young apprentice called Casey Ralph who was found for him, of course, by JTL. In fact, Casey is actually Tony Quinn’s second apprentice – the first being Tom Cross while he was working for McDonald Brown – whose experience was so successful that he was nominated for the National Apprentice of the Year award.

“That was a great achievement for Tom and we were very proud of him because we take a great deal of pride in everything we do. Just like Tom, we’re still learning something new every day,” says Tony. “There are always plenty of new things to learn, especially when you take into account all the new wiring systems available. Every day presents a new challenge.

“I was very pleased to be asked by the building contractor to tender for the work we’re currently taking care of for JTL’s HQ in Orpington – 16 years after I started my apprenticeship with them back in 1999.

“This has been a very interesting project for us because it’s not quite the same as most jobs. The public don’t usually get to see or appreciate the various aspects of electrical work because it’s all hidden behind walls and partitions; people don’t want to see wiring all over the place. But for this job all the containment has been left exposed so that the students can see what’s involved, the way the work has been planned and professionally carried out by approved NICEIC contractors [National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting]; it’s a really useful tool as part of their training and service workshops.

“I don’t regret anything about my training all those years ago and would certainly recommend anyone interested in becoming an electrician to consider an apprenticeship with JTL. Give it a go and, if you’re lucky enough to be selected, just stick with it, put in the hours of studying and keep learning all the time, especially the inspection and testing aspects of the training. It’s hard work but well-worth it when your apprenticeship comes to an end. From then on, it’s up to you…

“Certainly if my company continues to grow I’ll be looking at taking on more apprentices in the future. I’ve gone through it myself, so I know what’s needed, and how much work’s involved, but it really is very rewarding and worthwhile. Good luck!”

Advice straight from the horse’s mouth, as they say, and good advice at that. Begin a JTL apprenticeship – just like Tony did 16 years ago – work hard and … who knows what’s around the corner?

Tony Quinn was once a JTL apprentice, and now runs his own company

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