For most 14 year olds, the summer between ending Year 10 and starting Year 11 is a final taste of freedom before the adult world beckons. It’s a time for parties, barbeques, and whiling away the long evenings at the beach, as one year later summer jobs and results related nerves will be at the forefront of their minds.
Matthew Williams was different. While his friends were at barbeques or lounging in the sun, he was doing work experience shadowing a friend of the family who worked as en electrician. He hasn’t looked back since, and now, nearly eight years later, is a qualified practicing electrician working on industrial, commercial and domestic projects.
Matthew is a shining example of someone who successfully self-researched and found his own way into his chosen industry, as he admits he had no career advice about apprenticeships at school. He says apprenticeships give you a great opportunity to grounding in the working world, but also ensure that you gain vital life and business skills as you are given a lot of professional and personal responsibility at a relatively young age.
He explains how he first became interested in the electrical sector: “We weren’t really told about the apprenticeship route at school, but I’ve got a lot of friends and family who work in the electrical industry, so they gave me advice on the best way of starting out. One of them offered me some work experience with him in the summer after my first year of GCSEs – that was when I first realised that this was the industry I wanted to work in.”
Matthew’s work experience made him realise that he wanted to forge a career in this field. He researched the best way of entering the industry and decided to apply for an apprenticeship. By the age of 18, while a large number of his friends were off to university, he was on the route to completing his NVQ Level 3, earning his spurs by passing the AM2 assessment, overseen by industry charity NET (National Electrotechnical Training). Now, as a large number of his friends return from university saddled with debt and jobless, he is already firmly established on the career ladder, and has just bought his first house.
He says: “I knew from day one that I’d made the right choice when it came to undertaking an apprenticeship. The way the training was delivered was perfect for me – time at college and then working on site putting into practice what I’d learnt. I’ve no regrets at all!”
He won the ‘ECA (Electrical Contractors’ Association) Edmundson Apprentice of the Year’ award in 2009, beating off strong competition from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a tribute to the hard work he has put in to completing his apprenticeship. He was also the first ever recipient of the Apprentice Certificate at the Lightmongers Awards in June 2010.
Matthew works with P & R Hurt – the same company that took him on as an apprentice – and is currently watching the company’s next generation of apprentices go down the same path he trod not long ago. He says: “Apprenticeships are a great way of earning and learning at the same time. You do have to grow up quickly, but you learn a lot in a short space of time – and it definitely beats office work!”