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Trainee Engineers 5

What is an Apprenticeship programme?

An apprenticeship programme provides hands on experience, a salary and the opportunity to gain qualifications whilst gaining valuable work experience. The programme can take up to 4 years to complete and is centred on work based learning and therefore offers training linked directly to the job; teaching functional skills which support communication, critical thinking and problem solving.

Trainees on the apprenticeship scheme are provided with the opportunity to achieve a Modern Apprenticeship qualification and a City & Guilds Technical Certificate (or SVQ in Scotland). Upon successful completion, qualified apprentices will move into the business with an accreditation that allows them to build a successful career in the energy sector.

The number of people taking up an apprenticeship is on the rise and they help the economy as much as they help the individual. Since 2007 SSE has invested £60m in apprentice training. For every £1 SSE invests in apprentices there is an economic return on that investment of £4.29 which is split proportionally between wider society, the employer and the individual. Each apprentice on our scheme can expect an average increase of £21,700 in net earnings over their working life.

From Apprentice to MD

Case Study of Nathan Sanders, Managing Director of SSE Utility Solutions.

Nathan Sanders started his career with SSE as an Electrical Apprentice and is now Managing Director of SSE Utility Solutions, showing the wealth of opportunity an apprenticeship can offer.

Nathan joined SSE in 1988, completing his apprenticeship with Southern Electricity Board, covering all aspects of electrical installation works. He went on to have several roles, some of which included SEC Technical Trainee, Contracting Engineer, Senior Contracts Manager and then in 2010 Managing Director of SSE Utility Solutions and associated businesses. During his time with SSE he has gained several qualifications including an MSc in ‘Positive Leadership Practice’, a HNC & ONC in Electrical Engineering as well an  IOSH Safety Certificate.

Three myths about Apprenticeships de-bunked

Are Apprenticeships just for students that don’t get the grades to go to University?

Apprenticeships are not inferior to university but are purely an alternative route to gaining a meaningful and rewarding long term career, with a company that is willing to significantly invest in training and development.  We are looking for career-focused individuals, who have considered their options and are keen to enter the world of work but also continue to learn and develop their skills. University isn’t always the right choice for everyone and apprenticeships are a fantastic alternative which offers the opportunity to continue studying but also earn whilst learning.   

Are apprentices at a disadvantage because they do not have a degree?

Our Engineering Craft Apprenticeship Programme provides the opportunity for a wealth of qualifications, training and experience. The Programme offers the opportunity for further study at College to achieve a Modern Apprenticeship qualification and a City & Guilds Technical Certificate (or SVQ in Scotland). All of this whilst gaining work experience, improving soft skills and working alongside a diverse group of experienced staff who are always happy to support our trainees. And it doesn’t stop there – we have supported many apprentices with their career goals expanding on what they have achieved on our programmes throughout their career. We have lot of senior staff who started their career with us as an apprentice.

Do University Graduates earn more money than apprentices?

We view our apprentices as vital to the future success of our company and want to make sure we help them achieve their full potential. We invest heavily in our trainee programmes; they are a massive investment in our apprentices’ future and ours. For example, we invest over £80,000 in our apprentices over 3 years – through employment, mentors, training, and further study.  As their skills and experience develop, so will their salary.  The average gap between the lifetime earnings of apprentices and university graduates has narrowed over recent years and currently stands at £2,200 (1.8%), equivalent to just £4 a month!

How do we look after them during the programme?

We have SSE mentors who help guide our apprentices throughout their programme and there is also a dedicated Programme Manager who oversees the learning journey of our Apprentices.

Some of our Apprentices do spend some time staying away at an academic provider. This is usually for 2-3 weeks blocks, once per term. We tend to find most apprentices settle in well as they have met and made friends with colleagues that are also on the programme with SSE. Many say they actually enjoy these study blocks as they are with like minded individuals who want to get on and do well.

It’s good to know too that as a company we also pay for any travel and accommodation required whilst on study blocks. The only exception to study blocks are our Apprentices within the Wholesale Renewables business as they attend college full time for their first 18 months on programme with us.

My children have an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers, but isn’t the industry male dominated?

We are absolutely committed to taking measures to address gender imbalance and equality issues for those considering apprenticeships and trainee programmes in STEM subjects. 2016 proved to be a significant year for SSE in its diversity and inclusion journey. We are the first energy company in the industry to publish detailed reporting into the gender pay gap in our company in order to be open and transparent. In addition to a number of internal programmes aimed at addressing some of the issues the company is facing, SSE partnered with external organisations including Teach First, The Women's Engineering Society, Prospect and Equate Scotland. We are also visiting more schools, conducting joint events with bodies such as Skills Development Scotland and the Glasgow Science Centre to encourage females with an interest to pursue careers in STEM subjects and change the status quo of our industry being male-dominated.