Sellafield-based PPS Electrical show apprenticeship value

17 July 2015     JTL

Working in an environment where safety and security are paramount is nothing new to any electrician, but PPS Electrical currently has the task of managing a vital workload in one of the most secure locations in England.

Sellafield, where JTL are already running a traineeship and apprenticeship programme with Balfour Beatty, represents the grand-daddy of Britain’s nuclear industry. It was created in the 1940s and kept the country at the forefront of a new technology to get to where it is today – by far and away the biggest employer in the West Cumbria area, with confident forecasts that work will continue at the site for at least another century.

PPS Electrical started work on the then visitor centre facility at the site in 1996, just two years after the company was formed. Today, the business has its main office within the secure complex, and works for many of the main contractors across 150 buildings. The PPS workforce has grown to 260 people; all but four of whom come to Sellafield each day to work. Of these, 33 are JTL apprentices at various stages of their development.

Quality and safety standards are imperative to the work PPS do at Sellafield. For example, one of the key differences in working to Sellafield Contractors’ Standards is installing materials and equipment that could withstand the impact of an earthquake that measured 8.2 on the Richter scale.

“There are quality standards and the Sellafield specification”, says Lee Savage, Construction Manager at PPS Electrical.

Lee started his career as a JTL apprentice between 1994 and 1998, and explains how today, a pass to enter the site for an apprentice starting from school or college takes three months to come through. For these reasons, he and his colleague Mike Brown make their decisions on who to appoint early in the summer, ready for a September start.

The business will take on six new apprentices through JTL in 2015, using a combination of word of mouth and the JTL approved applicants list to generate those for consideration. In 2014, PPS added 13 new apprentices, and it was the management of the process and the commitment to ongoing professional development training that led to them being presented with the JTL Employer Commitment to Training Award for the North West last November.

“You’ve got to be prepared to do everything as an electrician”, says Project Manager Mike Brown. “Lee and I have both noticed that we are gaining a higher calibre of applicant than was the case in the past. I think there is growing recognition that gaining a professional trade qualification offers significant employment opportunities over a full-time degree.

“That said, we as a business are pleased to support our most capable staff with higher education awards.”

“We look for C grade equivalent in Maths and Science”, adds Lee, “and every applicant is required to have passed the JTL Entry Assessment test.” The apprentices are split in attendance between Lakes College and Furness College.

The work being done at Sellafield by PPS Electrical goes to show the value of apprenticeships, and how they can allow a company to continue to grow and meet industry or specialist requirements at a location the can be of major strategic value to the whole of the UK.

JTL apprentices Gary Jones and Jake Geldert working at Sellafield

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