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Audio Transcript: Apprenticeship Podcast Kiera McConnel & Alistair Sinclair

The text below is the transcript from the ScottishPower Apprenticeship podcast with Kiera McConnel & Alistair Sinclair.

hi this is skills for Life a podcast
Series where we hear from current and
past apprentices at Scottish Power to
find out why an apprenticeship is such a
great career choice in this episode I'm
joined by Kira McConnell who's a craft
Apprentice at Scottish power energy
networks and Alistair Sinclair who's now
traine engineer at Scottish power energy
networks thanks so much for coming in
and spending some time talking to me
today um we'll start with you Kira can
you tell us a bit about your role at the
moment so you're a craft Apprentice at
Scottish power energy networks what does
that mean um it means that I'm on a
course I'm training to become a craft
person within Scotch power energy
networks um to eventually just work on
the network to complete my
apprenticeship that's it I think that's
the role just to complete my
apprenticeship to then become a craft
person long is it how long is this
apprenticeship that you're on so I'm 3
years but I think now they're doing it
as over like four years um to give folk
a longer time to then just just to pick
up everything because there's a lot to
pick up on oh I bet yeah I can imagine
and did you come straight from school or
yeah I did I went straight from school
into the peer apprentiship course at
college and then from that from the
college course um I got a phone call
just saying that I was offered the
apprenticeship and it's there if I want
it I said yeah and I took it oh
brilliant yeah it's just sort of rolled
on and when you were at school did you
have did you have a career at Scottish
Power or in the energy industry in mind
or were you unsure of where you were
going to go I wasn't sure where I was
going to go I think it was the I was in
sixth year and it was the January before
like was like the last week of like
college submissions and it was actually
my career adviser that said oh like
there's on there's a course on at
College um um sponsored by Scotch power
if you want to give that a shot and I
was wanting to be an electrician but I
never I never got an apprenticeship with
like as an electrician so I was like
yeah I'll just put my name in and I I
got an interview for it and that was it
oh brilliant and what was the process
like um it was really good it was quite
quick I think it it was just as Co was
hitting this was 2020 it was just as Co
hit so everything went into lockdown but
we still managed to go into college for
two days a week to do the Practical
stuff um there was an interview and then
I think after that was just done an
email to say if you've got into the
course or
not um but yeah after that it was a year
at college and then now it's a three
years apprenticeship okay so you did the
pre-apprenticeship program and now
you're on your apprentiship yeah
brilliant because you've got a similar
route into Scottish Power alist haven't
you in so far as you did the
pre-apprenticeship program as well yeah
pre-apprenticeship program from
Edinburgh Del Keith um and then I did a
three-year apprenticeship but in
overhead lines um So based at a canas l
for that 11 l so was quite quite handy
that way um and I so H kind of
progressed for for there and then you
progressed from there to uh technical
crafts person that's right yeah
technical crafts person so mainly for us
to work as linesmen we need isolation
and and paperwork to say that it's safe
to work on so went into to move into the
other the headro um you can you can do
that H so we went into that sort of
thing which is a technical crft person
um uh so I worked worked there for four
years doing that role and now a training
engineer um so I'm only four months into
the training training of that as an
18mon H training program so we'll see
how that goes great so you've been here
and and within these programs if you
like for almost a decade Yeah Yeah by 9
and a half years now um so I looking
forward to not being a traine soon
that'll be quite good and what kind of
um what are you involved in at the
moment in your role yeah so we carry out
isolations um for I moved across the
transmission the the opportunity was
there um so you kind of put your hand up
to say where you would like to go in the
company after you get out your your
apprenticeship um and people will kind
of steer you and help you to do that so
that's what I did in January probably a
year ago now I just said I like to go to
this area of the company and um so now I
work for transmission um and we you know
transmit voltages around the around the
country and I helped with that by doing
isolations and switching um so yeah into
substations and turning things off but
just a higher votage than I used to so
now when we spoke before we sat down you
said that you always faned being an
engineer because you're Grandpa was an
engineer that's right yeah yeah kind of
a few people do that and H I like k was
saying about the electrician um there's
a couple of family members that were you
know like doing electricians doing
electrical things in electrical industry
so I knew that it was a kind of future
as well and it would be a good industry
to move into so that's where I kind of
thought about that so you had that in
mind about being an engineer but you
didn't want to go to UNI is that right
so you found alternative Pathways to to
achieve yeah that's right so um I knew
we a big company like Scottish Power the
head room would be there um I left
school with five highers so I was kind
of in the middle of do I go to
university or do I try and get an
apprenticeship which is what I enjoy
doing so seeing an apprenticeship with a
big company and thought that would that
would suit me um and and it did I really
enjoy working outside um kind of it
seems like a good hybrid mix and K
suppose you're sort of at the the
beginning of a journey like alistair's
just described so you're into your um
craft apprenticeship at the moment what
kind of things are you doing like for
people who've got no idea what's
involved in the you know the electricity
Network or anything to do with
electricity or anything how would you
describe it what are you doing on a
day-to-day basis so on a day-to-day
basis I'm driving about quite a lot
because I cover I'm based in Edinburgh
so I'm driving about all over like two
two baric maybe down to Newcastle and
like covering a wide range of areas but
um just going to substations maybe like
inspecting them um maintaining the
like plant an apparatus that's in the
substation um going around repairing
faults if a fault was to pop up um just
making sure that everything runs
smoothly so folk don't go off M off
Supply off Supply yeah yeah so it's a
huge like the these roles are are hugely
important to the the day-to-day running
of the country aren't they it must be
amazing to be involved in something
that's not only so critical um in terms
of how we all Liv day-to-day but also
with a view to the Future when we talk
about the
electrification of everything so that we
can decarbonize and get to Net Zero
because you're also facilitating that
because the grid and the network has to
grow to facilitate the the Renewables as
well doesn't it so it's like it's a huge
undertaking and it's it's a big thing to
be involved in yeah yeah there's
definitely lots of room for for growth
in that industry with people getting you
know EV car chargers and stuff like that
you see it maybe in everyday life you
don't really think about um you know how
it would affect us but as a company it
will so going forward so K you said um
at the beginning as well that you had an
idea about being an electrician did you
have to think about that when you were
at school in terms of the subject
choices that you made did you make
specific choices there for I
think I was I didn't know in like S4 and
S5 what I was wanting to do so I just
picked the subjects I thought I would
enjoy it wasn't until like sixth year
when I thought right right I need to
actually choose a career like now um
that I did National five woodwork that I
really really enjoyed enjoyed the
Practical side of it um and I was
speaking it's like I was speaking with
my dad as well and he was saying to get
into a trade because if you've got
something like with this it's something
that you can do for the rest of your
life and if you want to go off when
you're 30 or something to do something
else you've always got this behind you
that you can fall back on so it was more
of I let I did the subjects that I
enjoyed and then I just I don't know how
I don't know I like yeah I don't know I
love the way you said that you can you
know once you're 30 you can fall back on
it as if 30 is like oh so
ancient all the way down the line when
you're 30 but you know that's the thing
at a relatively young young age so I'm
guessing you're obviously under 30 yes
yeah I was definitely under 30 but I was
I was thinking because at like you know
16 17 choosing a career like it's a
really big thing it's so daunting at
that age isn't it and that's cropped up
a few times as well where like you get
to that point when you're about to leave
school or even choosing the subjects
that you're going to study and it's a
bit like I don't know what I want to do
so yeah does feel very permanent as well
whatever decision you make you're going
to have to go down that route for the
next 40 years so that's what's quite
good with Scottish Power is that you you
do feel as though you can you know if
you get the foot in the door then
everything else is quite a lot of head
room after that so um but like I said
with the five hires I knew that I I can
of got that behind me and then can start
the kind of fun stuff and that you know
working up electricity poles and pylons
and stuff it good your day flies in and
um and then after a few years of that I
thought I'll you know ask to go to night
school H and then Scottish put me
through my night school so to do my
that's how I started with the the kind
of path on engineering um so two years
at night school was you're still working
or you can do a day release and then you
can work your hours back so it's it's
good good options as well which is good
you you've got options and I think
that's one of the key things that keeps
coming through um throughout these
episodes as well as the idea of options
and and possibilities because of that
idea that's also come through in our
previous chats about it seems so
permanent when you leave school or the
choices that you make whether it's in
your subject or if you choose to go to
un or choose not to go to UNI it's
almost like right well that's it so
permanent except it's not and there's so
many in particularly to Scottish Power
as we've been talking about through this
series but even yourself Alistair you're
a great example of somebody who's come
through the whole program and I saw you
speaking to um to Natalie who we've who
works at Scottish Power and um we've
spoken to in this series and it was also
a lovely we moment of seeing the two of
you talk together with that relationship
that's there because she's known you for
the best part of a decade when you've
been here and she said that she knew
coming from school and now yeah TR
appren training engineer Natalie
interviewed me for my uh
pre-apprenticeship and um yeah yeah been
quite some giv me some good news over
the years with you've got through the
apprenticeship and then H yeah looked
after us a few times as well just with
some issues and stuff so no it's h it's
good to always have that contact as well
you know um throughout that 10 years
haven't be spoken to every single year
just with advice and stuff like that so
that's good it sounds like a great thing
to have like that con and also that sort
of that length of time here because
nowadays you know it's not usually in
the past they used to talk about people
having a job for life and they would be
a company for a long time we've been
kind of getting away from that I think
in a lot of other Industries but it
sounds like it's a similar secure sort
of nice environment here when you're
coming into it with that very
relationship that we just described yeah
i' say definitely if you're working on
the tools as well you get in a squad
with people who you you genely get on
with with and um you spend time outside
of work with as well because you just
get on well and you're all working
together as well during the day so it's
quite it's it's good it's a good place
to work MH yeah they say that like when
I was in my first week of the
apprenticeship they said as well like
this is a job for life um you've got so
many like ways you can progress within
the company like it's it is really
secure like yeah oh that's good that's
also good to hear especially in these
sort of um in these tumultous times if
you like but it feels like it's
something that people are really
invested in when they come here because
I think it feels like they're being
invested in as well and it seems like
you know people feel respected and feel
valued in coming through these programs
because they're seeing the opportunities
that are that are available and that are
made available to them kir what would
you say would be one of the most like or
one of the best things about the role
that you're doing at the moment or that
you've learned in your apprenticeship so
far one of the best things I would say
would be working with the team like it's
just such a great atmosphere to work in
um but also just working with my hands I
really enjoy working with my hands
um and there's just there's loads of
different you do different things every
single day and it keeps things fresh
like it's just something different every
day when you were saying about going out
to substations and stuff and repairing
and maintaining some of the assets and
whatnot how does the training work to
sort of prepare you for that because how
do you know what to do well you're
you're learning off of the people
watching you the guys that are watching
you they they're personally supervising
you at all times so they're constant
constantly there and available to
intervene and show you what you like if
you're confused or needing ask a
question like they'll answer it like um
and they'll just
they'll help you through it and if
you're stuck if you get to a point where
you've been doing part of a job and
you've be you're stuck you need help
they'll come in help you out and then
they'll leave you to it they'll stand
back and watch you do the rest of it so
it's very like you're leading your
training ask
questions um be curious and
like yeah
just show that you're keen and they'll
help you yeah and what's the team like
in terms of the the gender split because
I think traditionally there's a this
sort of idea that the energy industry
and in particular the the craft aspect
of it is more male dominated have you
found that or yeah definitely yeah
definitely um and how does that how does
that feel and how do you work with that
is it is it okay is it it's fine I think
it's it's worse when you're in a
classroom I was in a classroom and um
the one of the lecturers made a point to
say oh you're a woman sorry I should
have done this to you first I'm like no
I don't want that just I think nowadays
it's it's fine I've not had any problem
with it at all um all the guys are
accepting like they know that maybe
there's something that I'm not strong
enough to do on site but they're fine
with that because I can do other things
as well mhm but I think the
the gender split is still there there's
more women now coming into this industry
which is really good it's good to see um
but it's it's one of those things it's
maybe not for everyone like I understand
like not everyone wants to come home you
know Mankey hands Mankey face but I
enjoy it so it's that's the most
important it's just preferences it's all
down to preferences yeah absolutely and
what do you think is the most sort of or
or the most beneficial part of the
apprenticeship or what are the benefits
of of being on an apprenticeship I think
definitely getting paid while you learn
is definitely the it's I think that's
probably one of the best bits of the
apprenticeship as well as like making
friends for life as well like when in
the apprenticeship group um you know you
are with each other for about a year or
so before you go out on to site but that
year you know you're sharing a hotel
room um if you're requiring
accommodation when you're training um so
what happens before for that year then
you go into site is that the classroom
based stuff yeah it's classroom based
stuff so it's like your health and
safety um you go to Fourth Valley
College in foler to do a couple of
courses there and then you're at Delan
College in cumber um that's where you
learn your trade or you learn like the
very basics of your trade and you also
have like a a short appreciation period
of the other trades as well which is
really good so you do all that for a
year before they let you loose on the
live cables yes yeah that's
reassuring so there must be a huge sense
of like camaraderie then if you're I
guess it's almost like anything else
like this whether it's like I was going
to say police academy you know I mean
but whether you're joining a university
course or any other thing where there's
a whole group of you at the same sort of
level the same stage of your career and
particularly if you're all sort of did
you say that you you were on site living
together we were in the H it depends
Some people prefer to drive if they can
drive they will drive from their house
to the Lane um but most of the time yeah
you're staying in a hotel and I think
they room people together now when I was
doing it it was Co so we were like in a
own rooms MH but um they room you
together which is really good as well
because you're just you go back and you
can just have a
laugh we sto me up for a a a pain like
to say that a p we sto me up for a drink
at Christmas your group and then some
your groups go away on holiday still um
so don't know how they're going away
with that one but still still doing that
so that's brilliant so that really is
that sort of sense of camaraderie that
that we just spoke about that sort of
shared experience where you're all
starting out together learning the trade
and then sometimes living together as
well and then it's sort of formative
friendships that last a long time yeah
and there's some work goes on in there
as well isn't there some work
yeah and what what would you say alist
in terms of the the benefits for for
yourself to the to for throughout all
the programs that you've been involved
with here um yeah just that feeling that
you're um you're learning and someone
else is driving you forward as well um
although you do need to do it yourself
and put your hand up and say I would
like to to progress in that area um soon
as you say that you usually have you you
know there's a plan in place and you
don't feel as though you're yourself
when you're trying to you know do
something or progress ress for the
company they can say we can help you out
in this way and that way so it's quite
good seems as though there's a plan
behind it and you're not just kind of
trying to do all yourself yeah that
sounds good how easy have you found it
to sort of put your own sort of goals if
you like forward to to the company and
then how have they responded to that I
think it's it's I don't want to say it's
fairly easy it's every 3 months you get
a like a P like a review it's not a pure
review it's a review like with your line
manager and your contact from skills
development Scotland it's through skills
development in Scotland that they've um
that you get the
apprenticeship um so you've got um
certain like goals you need to meet by
the end of your apprenticeship and one
of them is to complete all your qcfs
which is just your on-site job
um so you've got like a milestone
every time like you go into for your
review and then you'll have a milestone
or a goal that you need to reach for
your next review and it just it all
Cascades then into qualifying at the end
of your
apprenticeship would you say the same
yeah I I would say probably didn't think
about progression probably for the first
four or five years H just wanted to be
good at a trade and you know good at
being a lman um first and foremost and
then after a we while I thought you know
there's about opportunity H and I was
actually approached first of all the
first um time for the TCP technical
crass person sorry I was approached just
to say you'd be a good fit for this role
rather than you know I didn't have to go
and say it to anyone um so that's
another yeah thing that I found as well
is that people will notice when you're
working hard or that you're getting your
head down and stuff like that if you're
good at your job as well so benefit of
that apprenticeship scheme that people
are monitoring and then sort of of
rewarding the hard work um in terms of
the the sort of future for you guys do
you have a a potential like dream job or
role or even goal that you want to to
achieve uh I'd like to be an engineer
that would be good to get to the end of
this training um and then after that
there is no plan I'll just see how it
goes and that's the kind of feeling that
you get you know you need to be kind of
their company to kind of know what I'm
talking about I think just the fact that
what roles are available as well that's
something that we've come up um or
that's a subject that's come up as well
throughout these discussions is that
because of the size of the company and
the different business areas there's so
many roles and and you know the
possibilities are are huge yeah yeah
just see where see we end up there's no
pressure and how do you feel about the
sort of the the work life balance do you
are you still doing some
studying um yeah you do you get
interviews um towards the end of your
apprenticeship which then give you more
responsibility within the company and
for those you do need to read up on the
safety rules and company policies um so
I have been doing that reading up on
them and I'm nearing because I'm nearing
the end as
well um I'm finishing up my qcf so I
don't need to worry about
the written side of things anymore it's
more putting together now a folder of
all the evidence that I've collected
throughout my apprenticeship that will
lead me to my final authorization to
become a Tradesman or a trades
person um and then what is next for you
then from when you complete this
apprenticeship where go from here next I
think would be to just be a crafts
person for the foreseeable future I
would like to get a hnc
um but I'm not I'm not too sure about
um but from there I've got no plan I
don't know where I want to progress I'm
quite happy just being a crafts person
for a while and when you were at school
and you were thinking about um you know
if you were thinking about your future
and where you go what do you think you
would be thinking if you could see where
you are now if you could see yourself
now I have no idea I don't
think I
think I'm not
um probably just be thinking yeah this
is a pretty cool job to have to be
outside most of the time like that's
what I was wanting to do just be outside
not be stuck in an office so I'm quite
happy I probably quite happy great and
would you recommend it you know with
throughout the the application process
and now you know what it's like being in
here on one of the programs would you
recommend it to other people who might
be considering the same yeah definitely
yeah what's been the best like what's
your main takeaway do you think or your
best moment in your apprenticeship so
um best moment I don't think I have any
I just keep my head down and try it's
all good kir every moment is
amazing yeah um I don't think I have a
best moment
but it's just it's just been a really
good apprenticeship overall a positive
experience positive experience great
positive and what about you aliser uh
probably when I passed my trade test you
know at the end of your three years K's
probably going to come to that soon um
you you have to do a an on-site
assessment and you do an assessment at
Delan house as well in front of um a
couple people who obviously they they're
experts at the trade and they were your
teachers when you were at Delan and so
you sit down with them and they'll give
you examples to do and but you don't
know it's just anything to what you can
you know you get assessed on M so
passing that was great that was I always
remember the driving home from there
just thinking I've done it you know
that's you three years and you're a
Tradesman now and yeah it was good it
was a good uh good achievement yeah
absolutely and you must surely feel as
well now that you're onto this um
training engineer uh program you're
doing now with the the with in mind that
you had wanted to be an engineer that's
within touching distance now isn't it so
that must feel pretty good it's good
yeah I remember when the first day
Natalie sat us down and she showed us on
the on the projector ER projector
PowerPoint whatever it was um she showed
us the the plan that you can have if you
want so she laid it out as uh 3 years um
after you know one year
pre-apprenticeship three years
apprenticeship two years of college and
then you can start on your your training
engineering so that was at that point I
was like that's like eight years trying
to do the maths and workout that's like
eight years away and now I'm I'm here um
and it's it's B bit strange but it's
totally by accident it's not I didn't
really set out to do it like that it's
just the way time and progression
happens I suppose so it's been kind of
felt quite natural didn't feel as I had
to push too hard for it m and it sounds
like all those things were in place to
enable you to to get there without too
much trouble at all yeah yeah bit bit of
hard work and stuff but um yeah I think
especially when at the start if you were
to say it could be probably too much for
you if you were to say you're going to
be an engineer I think you just need to
as time goes on you just need to pick up
experience and pick up knowledge and see
how you take every every part of it um
so that's good and I asked Kira about
whether she would be whether she would
recommend you know the the the
apprenticeship and in the program uh to
somebody who was maybe thinking would
would you yeah yeah definitely um if I
think it needs to be your own decision
but at the end of the day if you're in
that same kind of problem that I had
with your stuck between University and
and you know getting a trade like here I
touched on it's it's good to to get a
trade then you've got it um so I I think
there could be no harm in getting it
especially in a big company like this so
thank you so much for sharing your
insights with us it's been fascinating
to hear like how you're both progressing
through the company and I wish you all
the very best with these programs and
apprenticeships that that you're on so
that's been Kira McConnell craft
Apprentice as Scottish power energy
networks and Alistair Sinclair training
engineer at SP energy networks thanks so
much to both for your time and I wish
you all the very best for your future
endeavors thank you thank you a big
thank you to all of our apprentices who
took the time to talk to us it's been an
amazing insight into life on an
apprenticeship program at Scottish Power
if you would like to find out more about
any of the programs that we've discussed
just visit our website Scottish

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