Build new careers with the UK Power Networks

Eight London career changers have joined UK Power Networks, to build new careers on the power network.

A barber, zoo worker and a brewer are among the 28 recruits switching on to two-year experienced craft apprenticeships with Britain’s biggest electricity distribution network.

In the next two years they will retrain as overhead linespeople working at height, substation fitters and underground cable jointers, becoming experts at keeping power supplies safely and reliably flowing for 8.5 million homes and businesses across London, the South-east and east of England.

Foundation apprentices complete the programme in three years, while those with experience from other sectors cover exactly the same course, intensively in just two years.

College courses and practical skills gained at the company’s training centres in Kent and Suffolk, are practised under close supervision on-the-job.

Former zoo worker, Samuel Newark, 20, from Carshalton, taught the public about penguins, monkeys and insects before landing an apprenticeship as a substation fitter with the commercial arm of the business, UK Power Networks Services, based at Heathrow.

He said: “I worked in the zoo’s education team and if the queue was long, we’d get out a massive insect or snail and teach visitors about the creatures.

“It was fun and I did that for just over a year. Before that I’d worked in an engineering job but there wasn’t much of a career path.”

After a degree in accounting and finance, followed by work in retail businesses, Dupree Gray, 30, from Enfield, found his niche as an electrician and is ‘excited’ to be challenging himself, training as a cable jointer in Camden.

“I’ll be working on high voltage electricity cables for Britain’s biggest distribution network operator, which is really cool, keeping the lights on and serving the local community,” said Dupree.

“I will be learning to connect high voltage cables into substations, joint underground cables and work around London restoring power to local homes and businesses.”

Electrician Tobin Carey-Williams, 31, from New Cross, is retraining as a substation fitter in Camden with UK Power Networks.

His next career step felt like a ‘natural pivot’ and reaching ‘the pinnacle of the electricity industry’.

“We maintain, construct and diagnose problems on substations that supply the electricity network. It’s a critical role and without us there would be no power,” said Tobin.

Omar Alaoui, 19, from Wandsworth, is one of the youngest new recruits and will be starting as a cable jointer in Camden.

Electrical engineering runs in the family, with Omar helping his dad and uncle with rewiring projects and getting stuck into the nuts and bolts of household appliances.

“It is great to be one of the youngest accepted on this course, helping out the younger generation getting into the trade,” Omar said.

“Everyone respects each other as equals, all the way up to the higher management.”

Charlie Aston, engineering trainee manager at UK Power Networks, said: “Apprenticeships aren’t just for school leavers and this year we’ve welcomed a total of 54 experienced apprentices. This group want to try something new.”

Changing career can be unnerving but for many it’s a chance to follow their dream.

In a survey of career changers, carried out by Joblist, 77 per cent felt happier and 75 per cent felt more fulfilled after taking the plunge.

Charlie added: “Our experienced apprentices view this chance to retrain while earning, as a ‘golden ticket’ which is an exciting gateway to the rest of their career.

“We don’t always know at 16 what we want to do when we’re 30 and we are seeing an enthusiastic pipeline of talent with itchy career feet who have transferable skills, life experience and are waiting for that opportunity to gain new skills and experience in their chosen career.”

This autumn’s apprentices are the firm’s second cohort of 2023, which totals 54 apprenticeships and a similar number will be recruited next year.

There were 907 applications for the latest 28 posts, showing strong demand for the experienced apprenticeship.

Foundation apprenticeships continue to be an important part of the company’s strategy, coupled with experienced apprentices who are fast-tracked through the same programme in two years instead of three.


Picture: UK Power Networks’ apprentices include Robert Popescu, Tobin Carey-Williams, Omar Alaoui, Samuel Newark and Dupree Gray Picture: Nigel Bowles

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