Case studies

Darren Chalmers, Trainee Engineer , Wholesale

Prior to applying, I was a Joiner looking to retrain as an Engineer as this was a subject which had always interested me, especially Renewable Energy. I studied a HND in Engineering Systems at Perth College. I learned about the programme from my college lecturer and was advised to apply. Only after looking into the position did I realise it was in Renewables, and I just knew I had to apply for it.

I always knew I wanted to be an Engineer and that I was interested in a career within Renewables.  I wasn’t entirely sure which field I preferred but after joining the programme I have had an opportunity to work in different areas of Engineering within the business which has helped me choose the right career path for me.

Whilst on programme I worked alongside the Hydro Maintenance Engineers, getting involved with routine maintenance within hydro stations and dealing with faults when they occurred. During my first year I spent my placements with the Electrical and Mechanical Fitters, gaining familiarisation and an understanding of hydro sites. Throughout my second and third year I gained more office based experience with the Engineers, taking on small projects under supervision, which was increased to larger projects once my experience and confidence increased.

The Trainee Engineer Programme was challenging but being able to work and study at the same time is a great opportunity. There were some occasions when it got really tough having to manage my work/study time with personal life. As I have studied and worked prior to starting the programme I was aware of what was ahead of me but the University course within the programme was intense and required a lot more dedication than I had initially anticipated. Ultimately the hardest thing for me was leaving my Son for three weeks at a time when going to University, but the end result has given me the opportunity to have an exciting future and I really appreciate what I did on the programme to get to the end result.

If you are thinking of joining the Trainee Engineer Programme just give it your all, show dedication and be motivated in your work and you will be fine. Remain positive when things get tough and by the end of the programme you will be a more developed individual, and you will appreciate the opportunity you have been given.

I am presently about to progress my career within SSE and move onto Real Time Systems support. This is something I am very much looking forward to and hopefully I will become an established Engineer and an asset to SSE.

Greg Smart, Trainee Engineer, Networks

Before I starting the Trainee Engineer Programme I was in my final year of school. Many at school were encouraged to apply for university so I did. However, I felt that I had always learnt better when there was a practical element of learning along with the academic side and this is what I found in the Trainee Engineer Programme.  When I heard of the programme I thought that it would be a great place to start my career as the learning is very relevant to the industry.

I have always been interested in playing sports and this will have helped me in the programme as team work skills are always useful to have.

Whilst on the Trainee programme I enjoyed the field work. We would encounter genuine engineering problems which made the role very engaging as the work was challenging and interesting at the same time. The placements and work can be very varied. We could be doing anything from planning a new connection for a new house, to dealing with a new wind farm connection or even restoring a customer’s supply in a storm.

The most challenging part of the course is trying to manage your time between the university course and progressing with your work place objectives. At times it can be stressful but at the end of the programme it all feels worth it. I would say only apply if you are willing to work hard. If you are willing to work hard you will benefit greatly from it.

After completion of the programme I will be taking the role of a Trainee Control Engineer.  A Control Engineer is one of the most important roles and as a result I will require additional training after the programme before being suitable for the role. This shows that things don’t stop after the programme ends, SSE continues to invest in its employees and in the next 5-10 years I hope I will have expanded my knowledge greatly and I’ll be seen as a very competent engineer by my colleagues.

I would recommend this programme to anyone that is thinking of applying to university. The programme offers a great learning experience with hands on experience and if you are willing to learn then you will do really well on the programme.

Kyle Brunton, Trainee Engineer, Networks

After leaving school I went to Edinburgh to study P.E teaching however I left in my second year as I wasn’t enjoying university and a very empty timetable. After leaving I worked as a chef at a local restaurant until I was made aware of the Transmission Construction Programme with SSE. The course only ran for 2 years in order to try and develop more transmission linesman for both SSE and Balfour Beatty. The course lasted 3 months consisting of 3 months of college units, 3 months with SSE and 3 months with Balfour. The highlight of this was working on the towers on the Beauly Denny project beside Dalwhinnie. When the course concluded I was offered a job as a trainee linesman with Balfour however I had also applied successfully to the SSE Trainee Engineer programme. I decided to go into the Trainee Engineer Programme because of the prospect of a better career.

Before applying I knew it was to do with electrical engineering but I didn’t know much about the distribution side of the business having done my training in a transmission capacity up until that point. I knew however that becoming a SAP (Senior Authorised Person) was the end goal for the course.

I wouldn’t say there was one specific extra curricular activity that pushed me ahead of others for the course but being physical and enjoying sports and exercise is helpful. In your first year you spent a lot of time with craftsmen which can be quite physical. I spent time with the linesmen, jointers and fitters. This time is crucial as it provides the grounding for the more business and engineering related placements in second year. This was my favourite time as most of it was spent outside the office, learning lots and seeing new places in the highlands and Islands. In second year the control room placement is very good. During two weeks in the control room you spend time with experienced control engineers and learn about the network from a very different perspective which is quite an eye opener. Another interesting placement was in the Supply Restoration department dealing with faults. During my time in this area everyday was a school day and you got to see something new almost every day. It made me appreciate the age and state of our network and also showed me that there was so much more to faults than I thought.

I was lucky enough to also have the opportunity to do a year away in Stornoway in my first year and this was by far the highlight of the programme. As I had already been working for the company I was offered the opportunity to move to the Western Isles for a year in order to accommodate for another trainee in Inverness. Whilst over there I learnt a lot, made friends whilst playing for local rugby and football teams, and built a lot of professional relationships with the staff over there. I was also alone by myself in a strange depot which was a challenge; however it turned into a plus very quickly. I feel it added to my development greatly.

I found University the most challenging part of the course as I had initially left university before. I was concerned with whether I would be able to cope with it. However after a lot of hard work and perseverance I passed with no fails. It does take a lot of time out of your schedule though and can’t be bluffed, especially in second year.

I would say if you have the grades to complete the university side of the course but also enjoy being outdoors then the course can be the perfect platform. The Trainee Engineer Programme pushes you into a career where you will have a great office/out of office balance and you can move forward. Once you become operational in the business you are an asset that can be very important, allowing you to save the company money but also allowing you to get where you want to be.

I am currently half way through my third year and have been placed in the Supply Restoration team in Inverness. It looks like I will be given a position in the team once I complete the course. My day to day work consists of managing LV cable faults, organising remedial work that occurs off the back of faults and also looking at fault prevention with the regional manager of S.R. It is a challenging role however there is a lot to be learnt and it is enjoyable.

I see myself staying in the S.R team for a few years until I become full SAP. After that I might look to move to a different job or a different area, the possibilities are there if you want to move forward.

Megan Dougan, Trainee Engineer – Networks

Prior to applying for the trainee engineer programme I was still in school and working part-time as a waitress. In my 6th year at school I decided to take higher physics since I really enjoyed maths. It was during my 6th year that I decided I would like to go into engineering since my strengths lay in maths and physics. I applied to various university courses and also the trainee engineer programme. I received various university offers but the programme was always my first choice as I didn’t want to go to university full time, and the thought of being able to study and work full time seemed like such a good opportunity. The idea of going away for university was also appealing to me.

Honestly, I didn’t know what type of career I wanted to end up in before applying for the programme. I just knew I wanted to go into a job or university course that involved engineering. The only thing I was concerned over with pursuing a career in engineering was that it was a highly male dominated area, especially within electrical engineering. However, it didn’t stop me from applying; I would say it made me more determined.  

Currently I am still in the trainee engineer programme and there are many things that I have enjoyed. Not one day on the programme is the same, especially when out on placement with all the different business areas. Going away for university was also a highlight for me, despite the amount of work required to pass the exams.

In our first year we go on 3 different placements with the craftsmen; linesmen, jointers and fitters. These placements are extremely useful as you get an understanding of the work that actually physically happens. Also, you are able to start building up your electrical knowledge and relate certain things back to what you are learning at university. In second year, your placements are with engineers from all the different departments in the depot. The time spent with each business area in second year is extremely valuable. You begin to get an appreciation for what you will be doing following successful completion of the programme. Also in second year you begin to get more responsibility.

The most challenging thing about the programme is balancing a full time job and a full time foundation degree at university. Lots of time and dedication needs to be put into the university work. The university course is not easy, it is difficult, however it is not impossible.

I would definitely recommend the programme to anybody interested in electrical engineering. And to any applicants applying, I would say you are making an excellent choice but don’t expect it to be an easy three years, there are lots of highlights about the programme, however it does require lots of work and dedication. Also, I would say that there are so many opportunities for the future by doing this programme, therefore you must make the most of it.

As it stands, I am not sure where I see myself in 5/10 years. I would like to think I will be well on my way to becoming an experienced engineer. However, at this early stage it is hard to decide what business area or part of the company I would want to work for as I am still learning and discovering where my strengths and weaknesses lie but my final year on programme will help cement my future career plans.