09 Mar 2017
I can’t believe how quickly my four-year apprenticeship has gone. When you’re working on a job, you’re always learning something new. For me, it’s the best way to learn.
When I left school, I didn’t have a passion for books, so the idea of studying full time wasn’t appealing. I did my research and decided to take a faster route into the working world. I joined Crown House Technologies, a subsidiary of Laing O’Rourke, as an electrical apprentice in 2012. This means that, rather than coming out of university with a qualification and debt, I’ve gained four years’ experience, an NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Installing Electrotechnical Systems and earned a bit of money.
In the early days, I was always working alongside fully qualified electricians to keep me safe and teach me. But, as my skills have developed, I’ve been able to work more independently, which I enjoy. Also, my supervisor has got to know me, so he knows what I’m capable of and where I need more support.
I’ve been working on Clarges Mayfair since August 2016, helping connect the Building Management System. This controls all the key equipment in the building – fan coil units that regulate the room temperatures, underfloor heating sensors, supply and extract fans for fresh air, and so on. At the beginning, you walk into a big bare shell and by the time you come away you see the finished product, which feels really satisfying.
As part of the Clarges Mayfair team, I’ve done measurements, put in the containment for services and installed control cables, making sure they get to wherever they need to be. I’m also helping link it all up and make sure it’s working like it should. I particularly enjoy the commissioning stage; it’s pretty cool when you test everything and see how it’s going to work for the people in the building.
To other young people, I would say that going to university is not the only way to make something of yourself. Apprenticeships are a good option, particularly if you don’t like books. There is still study involved – you have to study to get anywhere – but it’s not as intense as a degree. For the first three years of my apprenticeship, I did one day a week at the College of North West London and then in the fourth year I only went to college for assignments and practical exams.
When you do an electrical apprenticeship, so many avenues open up – control systems, fire alarms, CCTV, power and lighting, and more. As long as there are buildings going up somewhere, trades will always be in demand. Also, if you want to go abroad or work for yourself, having a trade is a good thing. Once you get your qualification, nobody can take that away from you. Trade gives you freedom.
I’ve definitely enjoyed my four years. Coming to work was never boring. I’ve worked on some fantastic projects – Clarges Mayfair, the Francis Crick Institute, Guy’s Hospital and Heathrow Terminal 2. You meet some colourful characters working on a construction site and you’re learning every day.
It’s good for the company too. Laing O’Rourke take a lot of care with their apprentices, developing our core skills and values. They invest a lot of time, effort and money but they’re getting the people they want. They’re shaping us so we work in a way that benefits the company. And that’s good for everyone.
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