Trailblazer could disarm a ticking time bomb

The first apprentices have now graduated from the power network craftsperson trailblazer apprenticeship which could make a major contribution to addressing the power sector’s skills gaps, says Chris Degg.

Trailblazer could disarm a ticking time bomb

The first apprentices have now graduated from the power network craftsperson trailblazer apprenticeship which could make a mojor contribution to addressing the power sector’s skills gaps, says Chris Degg.

I was privileged to join 15 UK Power Networks’ trainees at the House of Commons when they graduated from the inaugural Trailblazers apprenticeship schemes.

This event – hosted by Nadhim Zahawi MP – was the culmination of 18 months of study for the guys, who are now qualified live low voltage jointers. Every one of them worked conscientiously to achieve this qualification and this was no easy task, considering that they had to balance family and work commitments at the same time.

Graduation day at Westminster was a time to celebrate their success and there was certainly an emotional atmosphere in the room, fuelled no doubt by the complementary sandwiches (with the crusts cut off!) and the occasional drink.  Such was the excitement that the group were oblivious to the announcement leading to a new Prime Minister echoing in the corridors of power!

“The apprenticeship supports the power sector’s ambition of delivering a national common accord, ensuring that all staff across the sector are trained to the same standard and providing transferrable skills.” Chris Degg, HR director, UKPN

As human resources director I was particularly pleased that we have been associated with this scheme as staff development is an important consideration for all of us at UK Power Networks, benefitting both the individual and the Company.

Providing opportunities for our people to improve and update their skills has helped us earn a place on the Sunday Times ‘Top 25 Best Big Companies To Work For’ list for the past two years. Our commitment to personal growth and development has also been externally recognised through our Investors in People (IIP) gold standard accreditation.  The fact that it is UK Power Networks’ apprentices who have been the first group not only within the sector but also within UK plc. to complete the apprenticeship, further reinforces our reputation and is consistent with our priorities.

The Trailblazer apprenticeship was introduced into UK Power Networks following collaboration in its development with the National Skills Academy for Power (NSAP) and Utility and construction Training (UCT) who supported the delivery of the craft training.  The programme was based on the existing UK Power Networks programme and will set the standard for all future apprentices joining our business.  A second cohort will complete their training in August next year. 

The apprentices attended an Outward Bound team building event on the ‘Costa del Cumbria’ in mid-December and as well as being authorised to operate on our network, they have all successfully completed the City & Guilds 2339 Certificate in Electrical Power.

The apprenticeship supports the power sector’s ambition of delivering a national common accord ensuring that all staff across the sector are trained to the same standard providing transferrable skills which can be utilised quickly when the need arises (eg storms or other emergency situations) which will help to minimise customer interruptions.

HR Forum

 

Chris Degg will speak at the Utility Week HR Forum in Birmingham on 13 September. More details here.

Given the critical shortage of craft and engineering skills which our industry is facing, the programme will have an important part to play in equipping the sector, and UK Power Networks in particular, with the right knowledge and skills. We know that there is a lack of individuals with science, technical, engineering and maths (Stem) backgrounds and this, coupled with the age profile of our workforce, is creating a ‘ticking time bomb’ of skills shortages. 

The apprenticeship will help bridge this gap by giving new and existing colleagues the opportunity of learning new ways to make a valued contribution.  Additionally, in light of the Government’s promotion of smart meters (whereby households can monitor, manage and plan their own electricity usage), the Trailblazer apprenticeship will be one way of providing the necessary skilled resources to support our customers.

At the House of Commons event one of the more ‘mature’ apprentices – Mick Shannon (whose son graduated at the same time) spoke very proudly and eloquently about his experience on the programme, highlighting the fact that he has obtained a complete new set of skills at a fairly late stage in his career.  The diversity of the trainees is a key feature of the programme, with individuals of different backgrounds, experience and age successfully completing the apprenticeship.

The Trailblazer apprenticeship has certainly been a real team effort involving valuable contributions from Government, sector organisations, professional bodies and of course ourselves.  However, the greatest praise of all is reserved for our 15 ‘graduates’. They will play a key role in helping UK Power Networks provide a great service to our customers in years to come.  They are a credit to the Company, their families and themselves.  Well done to all!


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