Recruit helps light the way

Michael Wiles
Michael Wiles

A teenager from Bedford is going to be keeping the lights on for his new career.

Michael Wiles, 19, is one of 15 recruits chosen from hundreds of applicants to join UK Power Networks’ on-the-job training scheme. He will be working for the company which delivers electricity to 8.1million customers across London, the South East and East Anglia.

Over the next three years, the former Wootton Upper School student will prepare to join the skilled teams who keep electrical power flowing to more than a quarter of Britain’s population 24 hours a day.

The apprentices will complete a Power Network Craftsperson Standard training programme specialising in either overhead lines (linesperson), underground cables (jointers) or electricity substations (fitters), gaining practical training and nationally-recognised Trailblazer qualifications.

In July a group of apprentices employed by UK Power Networks were honoured at the House of Commons after becoming the first apprentices in the country to successfully complete the new Trailblazer apprenticeship programme, designed by top employers to meet industry needs.

Michael will be following in their footsteps, working at Bedford for UK Power Networks while training to become a cable jointer.

He said: “I was so excited to get the job. This is the start of my career now and I cannot wait to get started. It’s a job for life if you want it to be as everyone needs electricity. I’m happy to get involved in a profession I have always wanted to be part of. My dad started as an apprentice here too.

“I have always wanted to work outdoors and I look forward to facing the challenges when working with live electricity. It’s not a job that many people do. My mates had no idea what we do, it’s different.

“The support the training team has given us from the start has been excellent. UK Power Networks is investing in us and it is such a large company that there is lots of potential for progression. I would like to spend my time learning my trade, becoming highly skilled in my job and then I would consider progressing into the engineering side of the business at a later stage.”

Basil Scarsella, chief executive of UK Power Networks, said: “In three to four years our new trainees will be fully operational, enabling our business to progress with newly- qualified, highly trained employees. The country’s engineering workforce is ageing and as our people retire we need to make sure we have the supply of young people coming through over the next few years to continue to do the good job our teams do today, maintaining reliable power supplies for our customers.”

All the trainees working to the new Trailblazer standard work to a level of competency based on tried, tested and trusted methods in a sector where safety is paramount. On completion of their studies they will gain a Certificate in Electrical Power Engineering. Their studies include formal training at UK Power Networks’ training centres in Kent and Suffolk and on-the-job experience putting their skills into practice. The trainees will spend up to 11 months in residential training centres gaining the knowledge, skills and competency to work on the network before starting in their areas. The apprentices shadow experienced staff, participate in a 24-hour standby rota and have a gradual introduction to field work.

After they qualify they can complete more advanced qualifications and can apply for the company’s supported studies programme to advance their careers. Many former apprentices have progressed to become senior managers within the company.

To find out more about becoming an apprentice visit:

A dedicated free telephone number has been introduced - 105 - which customers can call if they have a power cut. This will get you through to your local network operator which runs the cables and power lines delivering electricity to your area.