Meet the apprentices shaping the future of energy
Opting for an apprenticeship allows you to earn as you learn, getting work experience alongside valuable qualifications. Freddie Chidlow and Daisy MacDonald are currently apprentices with National Grid. Here they explain the opportunities they’ve been given during the programme and why it was the right career choice for them.
"Other companies made me feel like a number – National Grid treated me like a person."
Daisy MacDonald, apprentice
I turned down a university place to join National Grid as an apprentice. I had always thought I would go to uni and it was only when my careers advisor briefly mentioned apprenticeships that I began to consider a different option. I looked into quite a few companies and applied for several. When it came to A Level results day I had an unconditional offer to study Computer Science at the University of Plymouth, plus several offers of apprenticeships – but I knew National Grid was the right fit for me.
Other companies had made me feel like a number; as if they were only interested in what I could do for them. National Grid was different, everyone treated me like a person. They put a lot of emphasis on how they could help me get the job I wanted at the end of the apprenticeship. They were also happy to give me the time to pursue my passion to promote the role of women in STEM.
I joined the Higher Apprentice programme in September 2017 to work in Cyber Security. I had always enjoyed IT and computing and I was drawn to this exciting, up-and-coming field. I felt that spending three years at university could leave me out of touch with what was going on in such a fast-paced area, while an apprenticeship gives me hands on experience responding to cyber security incidents in real time.
Caring for the energy system
When I was a child I wanted to be a doctor, and I think the appeal was that feeling of never being sure what would come through the door. While I’ve changed career area, I feel like there are still lots of similarities – instead of helping to fix people in a hospital, I am looking after the country’s gas and electricity and keeping our own staff safe from cyber threats. There’s also no such thing as an ‘average day’. It can go from one-minute helping someone reset their password after clicking on an unsafe link, to being part of a team responding to a global cyber-attack. It’s a dynamic role and that’s something I love.
Becoming a STEM role model
I am keen to try to break down stereotypes around the kind of people who work in IT and STEM careers. I am part of a group called Girls2Tech, which involves speaking at schools and mentoring young girls interested in STEM subjects.
I have had the chance to work in lots of areas of the business during my apprenticeship, to help find out what suited me best. This is such a great opportunity as it’s hard to know what job will suit you best before you’ve even left school. Now I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I look at my friends and family coming home tired and seeing work as a chore and I feel very privileged that I genuinely look forward to the time I spend at work.
"The amount of qualifications I’ve gained is mind-boggling."
Freddie Chidlow, apprentice
When I got my A Level results I thought I knew what I wanted to do. I went to university and started a degree in Sports Development and Coaching, but I soon realised it wasn’t for me. I didn’t enjoy it and I was always looking at the clock hoping to get out early. I realised I wanted to do something practical, where I was out and about using my hands and engineering seemed like the perfect choice.
I left university and applied for an apprenticeship. I was 24 when I started in September 2018 as an Advanced Apprentice Substation Craftsperson. Now, instead of paying to study, I am getting paid to learn. At the end of my apprenticeship I will have a Level 3 in Power Engineering and a City and Guilds Level 3 qualification. After that there is the option to go on to get more qualifications – I could even go back to university to study for a Level 6 HND. Even now the amount of qualifications I’ve gained is mind boggling – I’m qualified in First Aid, scaffolding, asbestos removal and to drive a MEWP (Mobile Elevated Working Platform).
No two days are the same
What I like most about the job is that every day is different. I work on substations, which carry electricity from one site to another. When I arrive on site I could be maintaining, installing or repairing equipment. These are massive structures – it’s really impressive and I’m proud to show people where I work.
I’ve done some exciting things during my time with National Grid. I was asked to have lunch with the head of Ofsted, which was an amazing opportunity to represent the company and tell her all about the incredible training facilities at our site Eakring, where all apprentices are taught. Another high point was when I was working onsite, and I was told to be careful not to drop anything on the cabling below as it was carrying electricity to power the whole of the South West.
I’m really motivated at work because I’m doing something I enjoy. I am looking forward to learning more and becoming even more embedded in the team. If I could turn back time and tell myself one thing when I got my A Levels, it would be to do an apprenticeship.