Prince’s Trust course aimed at helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to get a taster of working in the electrical industry has seen its first crop of students graduate from Edinburgh College. Here CABLEtalk speaks to the key players who put the course together and the young men who with the help of SELECT Member companies are looking to ‘Get Into’ electrical installation.
They stood in front of an audience who had risen from their chiars to applaud. After hearing some of the challenges they had faced in thier peronal lives, it was a mark of the respect and recognition shown to a group of ten young men who had put their troubles behind them and taken their first step on what will hopefully be long and fulfilling careers in the electrical industry.
It is not often graduation ceremonies are humbling, but this was one such occasion.
And the passing out parade came about in no small part thanks to the determined efforts of the Prince’s Trust, an organisation that specialises in helping vulnerable young people get their lives back on track, and who last year approached SELECT to put together the ‘Get Into Electrical Installation’ short course aimed specifically at this target group.
Owing to a partnership then formed between SELECT, the Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust (SECTT), The Prince's Trust, Edinburgh College and the Electircal Education Training Foundation (EETF), the hopes of helping this first group of young men have now been made real. It’s also the very first time that a foundation course of its kind has been offered within the electrical industry in the UK.
Newell McGuiness, SELECT MD, said: “I really hope this programme will be the first step in a lifelong career in the electrical industry.
“The ability and the enthusiasm shown by these young men and what they will no doubt bring to the industry has not gone unnoticed. I hope that this opportunity really does help them think about the career that is right for them. I hope that, like me, it will lead them to a long and fulfilling career in the industry.”
Newell added that one of SELECT’s key aims is to promote continual training and development within the electrical industry in Scotland.
When SELECT and the EETF were approached by the Prince’s Trust for support for the Get Into Electrical Installation programme, he added: “We were of course delighted to provide that support.”
He said: “Because encouraging new talent and finding new entry routes into the industry is win-win all round. It’s not only good for our Member companies but it’s also good for the long-term success of our industry, but perhaps most importantly it provides many more employment opportunities for young people.”
To illustrate some of the challenges faced by the candidates before they signed up to the course, several of them put aside their nerves and stood up to speak in front of the audience.
Daniel Sharp, 24, described how he had always wanted to be an electrician since he was a child but his life in the past few years had not turned out how he expected. He said he reached such a low point that he thought he was not going to “continue on with it” but when he saw the opportunity to do the course he decided to “go for it”. He described eloquently how he put his mind to improving his maths skills and how he was not afraid to get on his “hands and knees” during his work experience placement. Dean Hannah, 25, also told the audience how he had suffered memory and learning impairment since he was involved in a serious car crash, which left him in an induced coma. But with the help of course tutor John Wilson, the prior knowledge he had gained on an HNC electrical engineering course had come back to him, and he was once again able to thrive.
Anne Galbraith, SECTT CEO, added: “We started with 27 people who came for the taster day and it was a really tough choice as there were so many good applicants, so to be here the candidates have done exceptionally well. And they have all been so enthusiastic. I popped in one day and three of them asked if they could come in early to finish the project as they were running out of time. They were all absolutely fantastic, that passion, commitment, turning up on time, that’s what we’re looking for.”
Anne said that some of the candidates are already on track to get a job with some of the Member companies they had worked with, but for those who hadn’t there would be places for them on the next pre-apprenticeship course at the college. Anne added: “It’s been such a positive experience to see these young people do well; whenever I come to see them I find them inspirational.”
Anne thanked everyone who had helped put the course together, including Lee Johnstone, Head of Fundraising & Corporate Partnerships at the Prince’s Trust and SELECT’s own Training Manager Elaine Ellis. She also singled out course tutor John Wilson for special praise, saying his “fantastic” input and leadership had been an example to everyone.
Sarah Mackenzie, Programme Executive for the Get Into courses at the Prince’s Trust, said the young people they work with have been either long-term unemployed, have a lack of education or qualifications, have been in care or have an offending background.
She said: “Get Into offers short courses that aim to give young people who are work ready the opportunity to develop the relevant skills and hands-on experience to enable them to move into sustainable jobs. The Get Into programme was first trialled in Scotland 10 years ago by working with employers to open up opportunities for young people, helping them to develop their skills and experience in a hands-on, practical way in a specific sector of work.”
She said in 2014/15 that Get Into Scotland delivered 67 Get Into courses throughout the country, working with over 800 young people from a variety of industries including hospitality, oil and gas, retail, engineering and construction, among many more.
She added: “This is the first time that we have piloted the Get Into Electrical Installation programme, and it’s been a pleasure to work with this fantastic group as well as all the lecturers at Edinburgh College, and especially John Wilson. Through his passion and dedication all the young people were able to learn vast amounts from him.” She praised the 10 young men who from the very beginning had been “hard-working”, “professional” and “passionate” and she wished them all the best for the future.
All of the candidates spent a week on placement with SELECT Member companies, which included AKD Electrical, John Noble Electrical Contractors and HF Electrical.
Keith Groom, of AKD, said: “The two lads we had on placement showed enthusiasm for what they were doing and had a taste of what it’s like in a working environment. It was a good foundation and I’d encourage them now to get themselves on a pre-apprenticeship course; the three lads we have came to us through that route.”
Alasdair Noble, of John Noble Electrical Contractors, added:“We had Dean with us and he did really well. He showed a lot of enthusiasm and he travelled a fair bit around the place with one of our more experienced electricians, doing everything from lighting repair to attending a swimming pool boiler room.That’s the thing with being an electrician, it’s such a varied job and I think these guys appreciated that.”
The Prince’s Trust helps vulnerable young adults get their lives back on track through a variety of vocational ‘Get Into’ courses that it develops with business and industry.
All of the candidates it helps in Scotland come to the organisation by way of referral partners, which include JobCentre Plus and Skills Development Scotland.
The following students spoke to CABLEtalk about their experience on the first programme of its kind to be specifically tailored for the electrical industry anywhere in the UK.
James Graham, 17, said: “It was brilliant, I really enjoyed every minute.”
Jay Aird, 19, said: “At first I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I now feel a lot more confident. I’ve learned so much.”
Daniel Sharp, 24, said: “It was brilliant – I absolutely loved it. I’ve managed to get myself an interview with Interserve and the chance of doing the pre- apprenticeship course. It’s been life-changing.”
Danny Welsh, 18, said: “At first I thought I would never learn all this in such a short amount of time so it’s been really surprising how much I’ve taken in. It’s been really great and I’m hopeful for an apprenticeship with HF Electrical, who I did my placement with.”
Mike Jeffrey, Head of Engineering at Edinburgh College, said: “Last year we delivered a construction course alongside the Prince’sTrust and we wanted to expand the opportunity into electrical work, which we were fortunate enough to be able to do. The course is very much a ‘hands on’ learning programme: there’s elements of wiring, testing, cable structure, cable trays and conduit. We also cover power circuits and ring mains, and there’s an element of electrical design with the students ask to mock up the circuits of a house.The workshops were led by John Wilson and were extremely focused and practical.
“The students were all fantastic. Some of them had to get three buses to come here and they worked really hard at it.They all had a really positive experience and getting jobs in the industry will be life-changing for them.”