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Meet our winning apprentices

Determined Marc McQuade has overcome family heartache to be named Apprentice of the Year at the SELECT Awards 2019

Marc McQuade has already been through a lot in his 26 years. His future career once looked uncertain as he tried a string of different jobs without finding something that suited him.

After deciding on an apprenticeship with WMQ, he started to shine as his career got off to an incredible start.

But in 2018, he tragically lost his mum when she passed away suddenly – then suffered another devastating blow when his dad had a stroke in June this year.

Despite the challenges he has faced, Marc’s hard work and talent shone through – and he was named SJIB/Edmundson Apprentice of the Year at the SELECT Awards 2019.

As Marc explained, things didn’t turn out as he intended when he left St Aidan’s High School in Wishaw in 2011. “I got some good qualifications and went to Strathclyde University to study theoretical physics,” he said. “However, I didn’t take to university life and I wasn’t there for long.”

Path to success

Marc took some time off then applied to the RAF, sitting various exams, interviews and medicals. Ultimately, the judgment was that he would benefit from more life experience.

That was the turning point that set him on his career as an electrician.

“I started applying for jobs, one of which was for Scottish Power and the National Grid. My dad, who works for WMQ, told me that if I wanted to take that route, his employer was the only choice.”

In 2013, Marc was interviewed and duly became a WMQ apprentice.

Looking back, he believes it was no surprise he took this path. He said: “At school I enjoyed physics and maths, which involved quite a bit of electrical work. When I was growing up, my dad built our house and I spent weekends helping him. Becoming an electrician felt like a natural progression.”

Trusted talent

It turns out his dad’s views on WMQ were right. Marc said: “The way they deliver the SJIB apprenticeship is excellent. You get involved in a very wide range of work and the chance to obtain all the skills an electrician needs.”

His own experience bears that out. During his first year he worked at Gartnavel Hospital and Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Both were substantial projects involving major work.

Marc said: “I was learning the basics; seeing how a tradesman works, how to be safe, and the importance of making sure that everything was clean and tidy. However, I was also involved in jobs and working with serious infrastructure.”

Marc excelled at college and WMQ began giving him jobs they’d normally offer to fully qualified electricians. These included working on Penicuik’s bio campus where he supervised the installation and testing of an office floor, with experienced electricians in his team.

After passing his FICA, Marc became the electrical foreman in charge of electrical and subcontractors during work at Woodside Health Centre in Maryhill, Glasgow. It was a major project and he played his part in achieving a first-time handover of the building. He also gained a Higher National Certificate in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at New College Lanarkshire and started a Building Services degree at Caledonian University which he’s due to complete in 2021.

Marc also dedicates a lot of his time to helping apprentices through their FICA. He and WMQ have established a testing, fault-finding and safe isolation booth where they prepare FICA eligible apprentices for their assessment.

Family tragedy

While he was making such impressive progress Marc’s family suffered an unexpected tragedy; in September 2018 his mum passed away without warning. It had a devastating effect and Marc ended up taking six months off work.

Fortunately, he received great support from WMQ. “They’ve been fantastic”, he said. “I’m really close with the guys both on site and in the office. My mum was a childminder and used to look after some of their kids, so we’ve got a strong bond.”

Marc was appointed a junior electrical engineer, working from the WMQ office. Sadly, that has also been interrupted. “My dad had a stroke in June and since October I’ve become a full-time carer for him. My younger brother is at home and my gran is affected by dementia. So, I’m concentrating on my family right now.”

In spite of these challenges, Marc, pictured below with partner Lisa Rattigan, was able to celebrate winning Apprentice of the Year. He said: “It was phenomenal and I would have loved for Mum and Dad to be there. I was really humbled since the other guys were superb candidates. I was determined to enjoy the night, no matter what.”

Summing up, he explained his career success simply: “Working with WMQ has given me passion and ambition. Taking up the apprenticeship is the best thing that’s happened to me.”

Renovation man

Not content with undertaking an apprenticeship and a degree, two years ago Marc started out on property renovation. After buying a property in Allanton near Shotts. he stripped it back to the brick shell, demolished the old extension and started afresh. He and his dad have been gradually completing the work, from building the new kits to completing concreting, plumbing and heating.


Awards finalist Daniel gets set for a new challenge at biscuit firm

Daniel Begg loves being able to get out on the road. It’s been one of the joys of his apprenticeship with Moray Council.

But, he’s about to have a change of scene. Sadly, it will mean less travelling, but it will open up new horizons and give him the chance to do new types of work.

Daniel, who lives in Lossiemouth, explained: “I’m leaving the Council to take up a new post with Walker’s Shortbread in Elgin. I’ll be a maintenance electrician, so it will be a totally different job to the one I’ve done up to now.”

It’s another step forward for someone who admits he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he left school in 2015. It was only after attending a pre-apprentice course at Inverness College that he realised he wanted to be an electrician.

Three months later, he landed an apprenticeship with Moray Council. He said: “When they offered me the place I grabbed it with both hands. I thought it would be a great place to start my career.” Daniel says the job has more than lived up to his expectations. “In the first two years there’s a steep learning curve and, even though I’ve been time served for a year, I realise there’s still lots to learn. You have to think on your feet and you need good people skills.”

And he’s relished the chance to get out and about, adding: “You spend a lot of time travelling. There’s a new destination every day and it’s always different.”

Daniel’s also appreciated the support of a close team at the Council. He said: “There’s a good spread of ages and experience. The older guys know how everything works and they’re always ready to lend a hand.”

Until now, most of Daniel’s work has been in a domestic setting. However, he’s had the chance to do some maintenance tasks, which will stand him in good stead for his new role. “At my age it’s important to get as much experience as possible,” he said.

Since he loves travelling the recent SELECT Awards in Glasgow proved a great trip. He grinned: “I was delighted and surprised to be shortlisted. It was a fantastic night. I enjoyed the celebrations so much I left my finalist’s certificate behind. Luckily, it was posted to me afterwards!”


Well-travelled Kevin is on the road to success after apprentice award

SELECT Awards finalist Kevin Durning has seen plenty of new places during his apprenticeship – travelling across the country from London to the island of Skye.

And that wide-ranging experience is one of the things that helped him be named one of the country’s top three apprentices this year.

Kevin said: “My employer, HF Electrical, has offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Manchester and Belfast. I did lots of travelling during my apprenticeship, working in places like Islay, Skye and London.

“The work ranged from shopfitting for the M & Co chain to pub remedials and refits. There was a lot of hands-on experience and I often had the responsibility of just getting on with the job, so it was really useful.”

After leaving St Andrew’s High School in Clydebank in 2009, Kevin originally studied sports engineering at Strathclyde University. Although he completed two years, it didn’t turn out as he imagined.

Kevin’s dad – who was previously an electrician and is now a college lecturer – suggested he try a pre-apprenticeship course at Clydebank College.

The course lasted three months and gained him an interview with HF Electrical.

Within two weeks, Kevin was delighted to receive confirmation of his apprenticeship, which began in June 2013. “I discovered pretty quickly that the job can involve long hours and be more physical than you expect, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “It’s a great workforce, everyone gets along really well and the company treats you well.

“At HF we cover everything in the electrical industry. You never do the same thing for too long.

“We do fire and security, pub refits, shopfitting, industrial work, control works and so on.”

In January, Kevin will be time served for two years and eligible to go for approved electrician grade. His plan is to work his way up through the company, moving into design and management within five to ten years.

He was delighted to get shortlisted for Apprentice of the Year at the SELECT Awards.

“It was a brilliant night. My family, girlfriend and a couple of colleagues were there and everyone had a great time. It was great to be considered among the top three in Scotland.

“HF had never had anyone get that far before and the certificate is now on display in our Glasgow office.”

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