In the first of our new Talent of Tomorrow series, we meet former coffee shop manager Kamilla Zajac who escaped the daily grind to become an electrical apprentice
Hi Kamilla, when did you first think you’d like to become an electrician?
I grew up in Poland where my dad was a car mechanic so I was always around tools. However, there’s a real stigma towards trades in Poland – you’re almost seen as too stupid to go to university. Originally, when I came over to Scotland I studied business management then went into retail management, managing a Costa Coffee shop. However, I wanted more of a challenge and had always wanted to own properties so learning a trade made sense – even though it meant taking a massive pay cut.
Was it difficult to get an apprenticeship?
I looked at various company and agency websites and saw that Castle Rock was looking for apprentices so I went for an interview and was offered a place. I really enjoy working in a housing association; every day is different and you definitely feel that you’re helping people.
Was the college training what you expected?
The first stage was relatively easy and relaxed and I found that we had plenty of time for written work, but there was a lot more pressure in the second stage!
What do you enjoy most about college? Is anything challenging?
I loved the workshop during my first stage – my job is mostly repairs and small installations so I gained a lot of experience and picked up things that I now do on site. The second stage felt very intense by comparison, but I enjoyed the science aspect as I like to know how everything works. Site organisation wasn’t so much fun! And if I’m honest, I would have preferred a little more time – it went very quickly and I would have liked more practical tasks and some site visits to see different systems. But I’m very happy with how it’s all turned out.
How about on site?
I have a great job – working for Castle Rock is amazing and I’m treated really well. I like that I’m trusted to make decisions and am part of the conversation, and I also like the variety of work and being able to do a bit of everything, not just minor repairs. For example, I was recently put on a project to install fire alarm systems and emergency lighting, which I really enjoyed. It was good to be in the same place for the week and plan my day because my usual role is responsive work, like a broken shower fan or satellite dish. Lots of our tenants are older or have disabilities, so there’s a great deal of job satisfaction in being able to make a difference by doing relatively simple things. I’m always amazed that people are so grateful to me for just doing my job. Tenants are always really glad to see you and there’s always lots of cups of tea and biscuits!
So how can we encourage more women to become electricians?
The information should start in primary schools to encourage everyone, not just girls, as there are loads of benefits. The electrical industry is really exciting and there’s nothing I don’t like – the job has meaning rather than just hitting targets. I know that being an electrician could appeal to women as long as they really want to do it.
How helpful has the Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust (SECTT) been during your journey?
I like having SECTT as my ‘safety net’ – I always know I can contact them if I need advice or am unsure about anything. Their experts are always really helpful and knowledgeable.
And finally, what does the future hold?
I believe the way forward is battery storage and electrical vehicle charging – that’s definitely the direction of travel for qualified electricians. On a personal note, I’ve bought three properties with my partner and we now rent out two – doing the first one was a huge learning curve!
SECTT manages high-quality training on behalf of the Scottish Joint Industry Board. To find out more about its work call 0131 445 5659, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.sectt.org.uk
VIEW FROM THE TOP
“I originally asked Kamilla to come along to a Women into Construction event, which unfortunately was cancelled. However, we agreed to meet up later and I found her an inspiration to anyone wanting to become an electrician.
It was clear that she has passion and commitment to doing her job well. It was a pleasure to see her again recently and listen first-hand to what she thought about all aspects of her training.”
Anne Galbraith, CEO of SECTT.