In the construction industry, Apprenticeships are and have been the most popular route to a qualification in your chosen field for as long as the construction industry has been around.
Learning on the job is in my opinion the most effective way for young people to learn new skills and develop themselves professionally but also personally.
At 16 years old, the apprentices we see are coming straight from the playground in to work. This is a daunting task in itself but even more so when you add in the strong characters you find on site, which can be intimidating to a 16yr old. The responsibility of managing their transition from a school leaver in to a young professional adult falls on the shoulders of the employer and as employers we have to take this responsibility seriously.
At Powercor we currently have a selection of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th years in our ranks, each one is different; some quiet, some loud, some quick learners and others find things a little harder to pick up which is why it is important to tailor our approach to each of their individual needs.
To succeed in an apprenticeship, you need to be given the opportunity, be enrolled in a quality electrical course and get good all round experience through your employer.
With few places in the industry for apprentices, it is important for potential apprentices to be pro-active in looking for opportunities. Write to all local companies, make telephone calls and send emails. Speak to your School and also local Colleges & training providers offering electrical courses
We take on apprentices annually each summer. We have never advertised for apprentices and normally find ourselves inundated with applications.
Before a young person starts an apprenticeship at Powercor, they each undertake a 4 week work experience period; this gives them and us a chance to see if it’s a good fit and for the young person to really understand whether the industry is for them.
Giving someone the opportunity to start on the path to achieve their goals is an exciting time for us.
All our apprentices are enrolled at college through JTL Training. JTL are a not-for-profit charity, offering advanced apprenticeships in the construction industry. JTL work with us to ensure the apprentices reach their goals. We have a dedicated training officer at JTL which ensures consistency for our apprentices, couple this with quality college tutors and this is, and continues to be formulae for success for both the apprentices and Powercor.
On the job training
Once an apprentice is employed with us, we try to rotate them through the different areas of our business to give them a chance to get a taste of all the different types of work we undertake. This also gives them a chance to meet as many of our engineers as possible and really feel part of the team.
On top of that we hold a monthly mentoring session with each apprentice. This is a private meeting between the apprentice, their manager and one of the company directors, it is confidential and their progress is discussed, good and bad reports from site are shared and recorded to track progress. Most importantly in my opinion is the setting of achievable targets, this gives the apprentice something to work towards and gets them engaged in the process. The apprentices further along on their course get set targets a little more challenging and the new guys get tasks that are a bit more basic.
Finally we give the apprentices a chance to discuss any issues they are having good or bad, as I mentioned earlier it can be quite daunting so it’s important to address any issues they may have.
A few of us have just come back from the JTL southern region awards dinner, which really struck a chord with us all. It is a target for us to not only get nominated but to push on and win, it’s a challenge but one we’re up for and I believe we have a chance.
This is an evolving process for us, we seem to be having a measurable level of success although we’re not complacent about it, and we tweak our processes to give our apprentices the best chance at succeeding.
I know I would have benefited from such a system when I was an apprentice!