What it's like to do an electrical fitting advanced apprenticeship

Photo of apprentice engineer plus electricty pylons
Darbie's apprenticeship means she knows how to fix faults in the electricity network, helping to keep London, the south-east and the east of England up and running.

Darbie Hughes is an electrical fitting apprentice at UK Power Networks. Before joining she took 11 GCSEs, one BTEC level 2 and three BTECs level 3.

Darbie says...

I’d always been into IT and science, so I knew I wanted to do something technical; with my A levels it wouldn’t have made sense if I suddenly decided to become a dancer! I was sure that I didn’t want to spend another three years sat in a classroom, so I decided to look for something more practical than university.

My uncle works for UK Power Networks and so I was lucky he was able to sit me down and run me through what his job involved and how the company owned and maintained power cables and substations, which deliver electricity to more than 8 million homes and businesses across the south-east,London and east of England. Electrical fitting wasn’t an area that I had been interested in before, but after speaking to him I felt comfortable that UK Power Networks would be a place where I could have a career. I applied for an apprenticeship.

How I got my apprenticeship

After uploading my CV to an online application form, I had an online video interview, an interview with a group of other candidates and an interview with a panel of recruiters. This was followed by a residential assessment centre, in which we did exercises designed to assess our skills. The whole process was unlike anything I’d done before, but it gave me a chance to meet and bond with the people I’d be spending the apprenticeship with.

Life as an apprentice

Most of the first year of my apprenticeship was spent in training, which involved a lot of travelling to different training centres and staying in hotels. I also attended college in Somerset to work towards my professional qualification in power engineering, which I did in month-long blocks.

Balancing studying with training and work was never an issue for me, but it did take a while to get used to spending so long away from home. It was definitely a big, sudden change, but I’m glad I took this risk. I’ve gained qualifications in areas such as street works, confined spaces and manual handling. My highlight of the apprenticeship so far was when my entire intake found out we had passed our qualifications at the same time. It was a real relief to find that all our effort had paid off.

Fixing faults

I’m now in the third year of my apprenticeship. I spend my time out on site being supervised by crafts people, helping to keep electrical substations up and running. I love that I am getting a real taste of what working in fitting is like. When a fault occurs, I’m able to put the theory that I’ve learned into practice and fix the problem. I’m gaining experience and qualifications and it’s a foot in the door at a massive company. I would love to take my ambition as far as I can, and aspire to one day become a fully qualified engineer.

Advice to students

Put yourself out there and talk to people! Hearing first hand from people is the best way to learn about the opportunities open to you. In a new situation, stand out and impress employers by talking to your colleagues and be the most helpful person you can be.

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