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For National Grid's 'Why hiring apprentices benefits everyone' story

Why hiring apprentices benefits everyone

This National Apprentice Week we spoke to managers about the many positives of introducing apprentices into their teams – and their top tips for bringing out the best in new talent.

Wayne Jackson, is a Senior Operations Engineer, working in the West 1 Area, covering Gas Operations and Maintenance at sites from Carlisle to Stoke. He’s managed eight apprentices since 2008.

“I’ve been with the company for 19 years and I’m still learning. New technologies come along, you get to work with multiple departments, stakeholders and external customers – it’s constantly dynamic. That means the development opportunities are great, whether it’s in an apprentice role or in future aspects of the business. It’s a great place to learn and develop as an individual whilst also feeling part of the wider National Grid family.

They’re the next generation and we should really spend the time and effort to ensure our apprentices develop. They breathe life into the team.

“Apprentices bring new ideas even when learning and it increases the diversity within the team and stimulates us to think of the future. They’re the next generation and we should really spend the time and effort to ensure our apprentices develop. They breathe life into the team.”

Wayne’s top tips:

  • Set a firm plan with the team to ensure apprentices are occupied and mentored.
  • Expose the new apprentice to lots of different aspects of work, so they can fully understand the role.
  • As they advance, start giving them small projects.

Andy Lumb, Operations Engineer, Pipeline Maintenance Centre, Hertfordshire, UK has been hiring apprentices for 10 years.

“I currently have five team members who are either previous or current apprentices.

“I don’t believe any role in the organisation should be out of reach to an apprentice, given enough prior planning and consideration into how that individual can work towards attaining the right balance of academic and operational experience.

“In my team, the technicians’ operational experience and length of service equates to over 500 years. Training courses are fantastic but being able to dip into a pool of that sort of experience is the true benefit for any apprentice within National Grid. Whatever department they are aligned to, the wealth of experience within the business is second to none.

“I’m very privileged that all my current experienced technicians take huge pride in their roles; having an opportunity to pass on their knowledge and help develop a new starter gives them satisfaction. Many of my team joined the business over 30 years ago, and were fortunate to have had great peers helping them along the way. I think we’re grateful to repay those old colleagues by helping the next generation. Long may it continue.

“I sincerely hope the new starters have as long and enjoyable a career as I have been privileged to have. Nothing would make me prouder than seeing these new starters succeed and become our future leaders.”

Andy’s top tips:

  • Any new job can feel very overwhelming, especially in the gas industry with many acronyms and technical phrases, so it’s important to get the level of information right for any new members so they don’t drown in it all.
  • Have patience it can take time for someone to fully get all our processes and values ingrained in them. But stick with it - it will work!
  • Any new team member should be given a mentor, so they can ask questions privately and also bounce any concerns off them.
  • Remember people do get nervous at interviews, particularly younger people for whom it could be their first interview.  A former very good manager of mine told me: ‘Andy, we don’t always want the person who is best at interviews; we want the person who will do the role best’. I remind myself of that when interviewees are nervous.

Dave Steer is the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and Simulation Team Manager, looking after the control systems for the Gas National Control Centre at Warwick, UK. He’s had five apprentices join his team over the years, as well as placement students and graduates.

“Our apprentice roles are usually engineering-related and require a technical aptitude to control operations on the Gas National Transmission System. Our apprentices take on entry level roles that have plenty of scope for development or growth into other positions, so that a pathway to more responsible and challenging roles is clear.

Apprenticeships are a brilliant way to recruit young enthusiastic new people into the business.

“Supervision is slightly different to that for a normal team member, as is performance management, but having an apprentice doesn’t take too much more time than anybody else. Apprenticeships are a brilliant way to recruit young enthusiastic new people into the business.

“For the team, having an apprentice keeps our ability to train fresh and provides succession for our more experienced team members as they develop and move on. And for the company, I believe successful completion of an apprenticeship reduces the risk of hiring ‘cold’ into a role and provides a broader entry route so we get people with the right skills.

“It’s very rewarding to see rapid development in an individual, and how the team also adapts and changes to accommodate apprentices.”

Dave’s top tips: 

  • It can be challenging for a busy team to have a team member who, by the nature of the apprenticeship, needs to spend time at college, or preparing for exams, or working on projects. So, we have to plan harder to maintain consistency and actively seek out the training opportunities.
  • Sometimes the apprentices are young and may not have lived away from home before, so there is a need to make doubly sure everyone on the team is looking out for them.
  • Having an idea of a really interesting and challenging project for their final year that could bring benefit to the business, as well as success for the apprentice is my top tip.

Find out more about our apprenticeship schemes