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Life as an Appren­tice: Electrician

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Electrician Graham Downer explains his journey into an apprenticeship with Wiltshire College & University Centre and how it has helped him pursue a new career.

Graham Downer recently completed his Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Installing Electrotechnical Systems and Equipment (Buildings, Structures and the Environment) at Wiltshire College & University Centre and won an Apprentice of the Year Award for his efforts and achievement.

Here, he explains all about his experience in the industry and why he chose to start an apprenticeship.

Graham said: “I left school and began working as a telecommunications engineer and then became a computer technician for 14 years before starting my apprenticeship in 2018, following in my grandfather’s footsteps as he was an electrician too.

“At first, I was dubious, starting as a mature student and committing to a 4-year apprenticeship but I knew that it would be worth it as there’s a demand for electricians. It was a career I wanted to pursue and was a good fit for my lifestyle; being able to support my family by earning a wage while learning.

“My apprenticeship programme involved day release, so I would be in college one day a week. I really enjoyed the practical side of learning in the workshops and the fact it was a subject I was interested in made all the difference.

“The staff at Wiltshire College & University Centre were great. Helen Harrison (Deputy Head of Construction & The Built Environment) supported me and my fellow apprentices with a portfolio day where we went through everything for the work-based evidence portfolio required as part of our End-Point Assessment. This session was useful because we knew exactly what we needed to do and could crack on with it. In addition, Paul Grist (Assessor) was great at working with me, so much so that I completed my apprenticeship programme way ahead of schedule.”

Graham has combined his studies with a role at RGV Engineering, where he is employed full-time as an electrician. His next step is to complete the electrical testing course to become an approved electrician.

Graham added: “I received a lot of support from my colleagues, who never minded showing me how to do tasks and answering questions. I had a mentor, Pete, who I joined on bigger jobs to learn the ropes, such as solar panel installations, but I was also given independence with the use of a van and jobs to do on my own, so there was a balance. That is another benefit of an apprenticeship compared to employment where you’re just expected to know it and get on with it without support.”

Apprenticeships at WCUC are available in the following sectors:

- Agriculture
- Art and Design
- Automotive Maintenance
- Business, Finance and Management
- Catering and Hospitality
- Civil Engineering
- Computing and Information Technology
- Construction and Trades
- Early Years
- Engineering and Manufacturing
- Hair Professional
- Health and Social Care
- Horticulture
- Land-based Engineering
- Teaching, Training and Assessing

Find out more about our apprenticeship offering here.

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