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On the road to success

Robert Aitken is Managing Director of SELECT Member business Power Distributing Contracting (PDC) Ltd, who are based in Larkhall, Lanarkshire. As a long-time supporter of apprentices, he talks us through the journey each trainee undertakes at the firm – and why he believes it’s essential for electrical businesses to continue backing the talent of tomorrow…

On the day apprentices start with us, they’re told we’ll endeavour to provide good training across a wide range of aspects related to the electrical trade and our ongoing workload. We also tell them that the next few years will be an important part of their life and future, and they’re expected to show willing, listen, learn and do their best both on site and at college.

On site, we normally work in pairs, i.e. an apprentice and a tradesman. Our workload includes new build housing, domestic rewires, tenanted house repairs, EICRs, factory and commercial property installation and maintenance, controlled entry systems, CCTV, car park barriers and automatic door installation and maintenance. Our apprentices are trained in all aspects of these duties and, in time, are expected to become conversant and competent in each subject’s installation and maintenance.

Each apprentice works with different tradesmen. We have some that specialise in different aspects of our work, so each trainee gets chances on each core discipline at various times during their training.

We also assess their progress at regular intervals via reports from both the Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust (SECTT) and the respective tradesmen, and if we feel the apprentice is lagging in one subject, we try to provide additional training on that aspect. SECTT will also flag up any areas that the apprentice may require more experience on.

“We now have five very able and competent tradesmen, all of whom served their apprenticeship with our company”

Help when it’s needed

If we feel apprentices are struggling with a particular aspect of their work, e.g. two-way switching or control circuits, they’re given time on our in-store ‘training board’, where a supervising tradesman will help them iron out whatever’s puzzling them. We find this has been very successful over the years.

In the latter years of an apprenticeship, we always try to give our trainees small jobs to do without constant supervision. One of our senior tradesmen will then check every aspect of the work and sit down and go through the job, picking up on points where improvement is required. If the job is done well, the apprentice is congratulated and made a bit of a fuss of – we find this boosts the ego and confidence massively.

The power of apprenticeships

In our opinion, apprentices are a massive benefit and investment to every company and, from our own experience, the training they’re given has also benefited us greatly.

We now have five very able and competent tradesmen, all of whom served their apprenticeship with our company.

Over the years we’ve trained probably more than 50 apprentices, some of whom have gone on to become supervisors and managers in bigger companies, and others who now have their own contracting companies both here and in one case, Australia. We’re obviously very proud of all our current and ex-apprentices and the progress in life they’re making.

At the moment we have one Adult Trainee and five apprentices at PDC. The COVID-19 situation unfortunately means that most of our contracts have been scaled back or are on hold. But when the situation eases, there is no doubt that our workforce will increase, which in turn will mean more apprenticeships will be available.

“Our very first apprentice is still with us – he left after his time was out and eventually came back after gaining a variety of experience”

Support and satisfaction

Since we started the business in 2000, we’ve always encouraged apprentices and tried to offer them when the situation allowed. In fact, our very first apprentice is still with us – he left after his time was out and eventually came back after gaining a variety of experience and has been with us now for seven years.

Since we became a Member of SELECT in 2003, we’ve worked closely with SECTT and there is no doubt that the training programme they manage on behalf of the Scottish Joint Industry Board (SJIB) is excellent. Advice from SECTT on apprentice and training matters are highly regarded within our company, and we really couldn’t provide suitable apprentice training without them.

On a personal level, I’ve recommended SECTT to other established and some newly-formed companies within our industry.


Anne Galbraith is Chief Executive of SECTT. Here, she congratulates Robert, Nathan

and PDC on their continued business success and applauds their joint approach to the job.

It is testament to a company that the apprentices who trained with them either stay with the company or go onto to have success of their own.

As Robert noted, it is sometimes good for a newly-qualified electrician to leave the company and gain wider experience and then bring that back to the company that trained them. I applaud employers like PDC who continually commit to training and treat their staff well –it is evident that they reap the rewards that this brings.


The former apprentice’s verdict

Nathan Crighton passed his FICA in July 2020 and now works as a qualified electrician with PDC. Here’s his verdict on his apprenticeship with the firm:

I’d always wanted a trade and joined the pre-apprenticeship course at New College Lanarkshire, Motherwell campus. I did my work experience with PDC and after four weeks on site they offered me a job and an apprenticeship.

I found the apprenticeship good. The 1st Stage blocks supported my learning on site and I enjoyed the science as I’d done physics at school, which made it easier to understand. The lecturers were also good at showing us the practical side, so I got support with a bit of everything – domestic, industrial and commercial.

I now do a lot of testing, lighting and rewiring – a good range of work. During the pandemic I was furloughed, but not for long, and recently I’ve been working outside unless it’s essential and we are permitted to enter premises.

I want to stay on the tools as I really enjoy my job and will definitely sit my ACA in the future. I would recommend becoming an apprentice electrician as it offers you a good trade, plus I work for a good company who treat all apprentices well and look after their staff.

I’ve enjoyed everything so far and wouldn’t change a thing. I liked my college, the portfolio work and particularly working on site – plus my SECTT training officer was always there and was really knowledgeable and supportive when I did need help.


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