Emma Mackay is studying a technical apprenticeship as an electrician. Here’s why Emma thinks more young people need to take the plunge and do their apprenticeship.
Emma Mackay, Apprentice, SSE
“I’ve just moved into my own flat and can take myself away for city breaks, as I’ve been working the whole time.”
When I was in high school I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. It was my mum that found an employability scheme through SSE, so I went and did a 10 week training block with them and that’s how I went on to be an apprentice. I was attracted by the company and the kind of work, although I’d never considered doing that kind of work before. Being an electrician had never crossed my mind.
That’s why the programme was good, because it looked at all the different avenues you could take with the company. It was all different kinds of work that I’d never heard of before. But I knew I wanted to give it a go, so I chose to be an electrician and do my apprenticeship with SSE.
Each day is different
A typical day for me changes, but I’ve been doing a testing block through the council. That means I’m testing boards and making sure all the circuits are working as they should, then I write up all the paperwork for it. It’s one of the things I need to know the most for my trade exam.
There are lots of opportunities when you’re a technical apprentice. There are new hotels being built in Dundee which have been planned for a while. SSE were laying the cabling for them so I worked on that project. Later I saw it on the news and it was really cool to think that those buildings will be up now for years and years and I helped with that.
Since starting my studies I’ve learnt loads, I can do hands on trunking, how to wire whole buildings as well as testing and changing sockets and lights. It’s a huge range of things. I travel a fair bit as well. Recently I was working at a cottage that looks after children with disabilities. We had to check all the wiring, the lights and the sockets and make sure there was no way the kids could hurt themselves
Working, learning and being paid
You’re constantly learning new things and meeting new people, so doing an apprenticeship is nothing like being at university where you’re just doing your studies. You’re working every day, you’re up early and sometimes you’re home late, it’s basically a normal job, which I think is great.
It’s not a problem if you don’t understand something in the classroom, either, because once you’re on site it becomes a lot easier. It’s two completely different things to see it on paper and to see it in real life. Your colleagues will have time and they know it so they can go through it all with you step by step.
Speaking to my friends, they’re still living in student accommodation and they’ve had to take on debt from their student loans. I’ve just moved into my own flat and I can take myself away for city breaks and pay for that myself because I’ve been working the whole time.
Sadly there’s still not enough women doing these types of courses. I’m the only woman in my year which is challenging but also makes my job more rewarding. You’ve got to be thick skinned and believe in yourself. The company and all the people I work with are really welcoming so don’t believe the stereotypes. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not for you because you don’t know if you don’t try.
Aiming for management
After my apprenticeship I’d like to stay on tools for a few years and then progress up the ladder into management. As a manager, I’d be managing all the other electrical engineers and giving them their jobs for the day. I’d like to do my approved course as well. Being an approved electrician means taking another course where you go into more detail, and it’s basically one step up from being an electrician.
If you’re thinking about becoming a technical apprentice, I’d say don’t be scared, just give it a go. If someone says it’s not for you don’t be afraid to reach out and seek other opinions, and if they say it’s just for men, don’t take that at face value. You can learn, you can build up your confidence just like I built up mine.