29 July 2016
Seven young people have grabbed the chance to change their lives and start the process of training as electricians through a programme giving career boosts to the unemployed.
Two of the group have already secured apprenticeships following the six-week Prince's Trust Get Into Electrical Installation course at Edinburgh College's Midlothian campus.
The course gives young people an opportunity to get the training, work experience and confidence they need to begin careers. As well as supporting people to get their lives on track, the programme is addressing a skills shortage in the electrical engineering sector.
One of the young people involved has overcome homelessness to put his life back on track. Ryan Sutherland, 25, from Lochend once spent a year living in a tent in Seafield but now is in a good position to pursue a well-paid career.
Get Into Electrical Installation is a partnership between Edinburgh College, Prince's Trust Scotland, the Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust (SECTT) and SELECT – the Electrical Contractors' Association of Scotland. The Prince's Trust Get Into… programmes are short sector-specific courses aimed at giving young people launch pads towards careers.
Students attended classes at Edinburgh College and each did a week-long placement with local employers.
The students all attended a course completion celebration at the college's Midlothian Campus, attended by college principal Annette Bruton, representatives of the partner organisations, local MSP Colin Beattie and friends and family members.
Principal Annette Bruton congratulated the students on taking control of their futures by taking and completing the course and said she was hopeful she would meet them all again when they returned to the college for the college-based parts of subsequent apprenticeships.
All electrical apprenticeships in Scotland are overseen by the Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust. Chief executive Anne Galbraith was one of the driving forces in setting up the course, which is in its second year.
She said: "We have 2,500 electrical apprentices in Scotland but that's not enough, given the demand for skilled workers, and I saw there was an opportunity to provide a new route into employment for people who were perhaps looking for a second chance, who maybe had barriers to overcome. We got together with Prince's Trust Scotland and Edinburgh College and are absolutely delighted with how things have gone, so much so that we're launched a similar scheme, based on this one, in the west of Scotland in weeks to come."
The scheme receives funding from the employers' trade body Select. Seven of the ten students who completed the course in the first intake in 2015 went on to secure full apprenticeships, with two going onto pre-apprenticeship courses and one going into a labouring role in electrical installations. "Our students have a wide range of backgrounds and perhaps just haven't found what they were looking for, or given the opportunity, and many have overcome barriers to take this second chance which is a great alternative route into work," she added.
The course received funding from trade body SELECT. SELECT chief executive Newell McGuinness, who presented the certificates, said: "I've seen some excellent examples of work today and have been impressed by these young people. We in Scotland are doing all we can to address a looming skills shortage and our members have taken on more than 600 apprentices so far this year but there is more that needs to be done to recruit the young electricians of the future and schemes like these are great ways of bringing people in an industry that can give them a lifelong and satisfying career.
"This is an excellent scheme and we are delighted to be involved."
Lee Johnstone, head of corporate partnerships for the Prince's Trust Scotland, praised the backing given to the students by employers and thanked Edinburgh College for the quality of instruction given at Midlothian Campus. "The first programme was a huge success and this year is also looking like a real success. We're confident that we'll get the same outcomes in terms of apprenticeships and for those that are not quite ready, there's the progression route of the pre-apprenticeship course at Edinburgh College, " he said/ "Due to the success of this programme we're also running a Get into Electrical Installation course at Clydebank in the west of Scotland next week. This is testament to the success of this programme and will be a fantastic opportunity for young people in the west of Scotland to really benefit from the programme."
Twenty-two year old Conor Reilly from Gracemount has been offered an apprenticeship with the HF Group, which had provided his placement. Conor decided to try for a career as an electrician following a variety of jobs after leaving school at 18. These roles included stints in retail, administration and work as a traffic attendant.
"I'm absolutely delighted," said Conor. "It's about getting my head down now and going for my four-year apprenticeship. I just want to get on with it now and learn more and more about my trade. My eventual aim is to work for myself but I know that's miles off and I'm going to work as hard as I can over the next few years to make the most of the opportunity I've been given."
Derek Agnew, a manager from employer HF Group, said: "Conor really impressed us on his placement and so we're going to give him this chance to make a career for himself. He had what we needed – he was punctual, enthusiastic, asked lots of questions showing he was keen to learn and worked well with the team. We'll get on and give him the technical skills he needs and I'm sure he'll do well."
Fellow student Ryan Sutherland, 25, from Lochend, is now searching for an apprenticeship and proud of his achievement in completing the course. Ryan has come through some difficulties in his life following a bereavement when he lost his grandfather and didn't have a positive experience at school. He spent a number of years moving from hostel to hostel, and once spent a year sleeping in a tent in rough ground in Seafield with his dog. "I'm proud of what I've done and I suppose it's my biggest achievement for a while." Ryan's placement was with MDSI at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and involved working at height and installing industrial conduit and wiring, which he enjoyed.
Meanwhile, 23-year-old Maria Videva from North Berwick is looking forward to achieving her dream of becoming an electrical engineer, a dream thwarted in her native Bulgaria when she was refused entry to technical college.
"They told me they couldn't have a girl with 120 men on their courses so I said I would leave the country. I did a tourism course instead and came to the UK, where I found work while I looked for opportunities like this course. I'm so pleased I have a chance now to pursue this kind of work and am looking for an apprenticeship."
Nineteen-year-old Brandon Dixon from Marchmont has also been successful already in securing an apprenticeship through the course.
"I'm starting with William Watt in Tollcross on Monday, so I'll be taking my sister out for a meal this weekend to celebrate," he said. "I'm so pleased I saw this course on Gumtree and got through it." The teenager left school in 2013 and tried an engineering course and then a sound technology course but found it wasn't what he had expected. He was considering taking a pre-apprenticeship course in painting and decorating when he saw the Prince's Trust advert and the technical nature of electrical installation appealed to him. The six-week exposure to the skills required and the placement confirmed his desire to train as an electrician.