Lockdown won't stop apprentices like Archie sparking a career in electricity

Apprentice Archie Barry-Thake and team-mates

UK Power Networks apprentice Archie Barry-Thake and his east London team-mates - Credit: Nigel Bowles/UK Power

This week is Apprenticeship Week, pushing on-the-job training while being paid for it. 

Local authorities like Tower Hamlets have been promoting apprenticeships with east London companies of all sizes while involving schools and colleges.  

Apprentices taken on by TfL who've been working on Crossrail 

Apprentices taken on by TfL have been working on Crossrail - Credit: Martin Breschinski/TfL

The council has been running its own three-year “commitment" programme - started in 2018 - promising to create openings and training for 1,000 people up to 2021.  

One success story is Archie Barry-Thake, a 20-year-old from the Isle of Dogs who graduates this summer with UK Power Networks, having learned the skills to keep mains supplies flowing.  

Archie at his workbench with on-the-job training at UK Power Networks

Archie at his workbench. - Credit: Nigel Bowles/UK Power Networks

“I was looking for a career and now I’m part of the team that looks after substations distributing power to homes and businesses,” Archie says. 

“We take electricity for granted, turning on a switch and there it is. Something people don’t think about, but our team is responsible for maintaining supplies.” 

Archie, who will be based in West Ham when he qualifies, didn’t know what he wanted to do when he left Stepney’s Bishop Challenor School, but did know he liked the independence of being paid for working at the ArcelorMittal Orbit abseiling sculpture in the Olympic Park, in his spare time during sixth form.  

Apprenticeship with UK Power Networks

UK Power Networks provides apprenticeships in east London - Credit: Nigel Bowles/UK Power Networks

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He heard about UK Power Networks’ apprenticeship through a family friend.  

“I’m the first one in my family to work on the electricity network,” Archie tells you. “My dad and brother are plumbers, my cousins are electricians and cab drivers.”  

Even Crossrail has relied on apprentices to help keep the £18bn project on track

Even Crossrail has relied on apprentices to help keep the £18bn 'super tube' project on track - Credit: Martin Breschinski/TfL

Apprentices have also been vital for the £18bn Crossrail project. 

Kelsey Tuffin started a two-year painting and decorating apprenticeship in 2018 with the Berkeley construction group at sites in Canary Wharf’s South Quay Plaza and Whitechapel’s Goodman’s Field. She said when joining the scheme: “The advantage is earning while you learn - and enjoying it.”  

For the Berkeley Group it is “giving back to communities” it is working with while supporting industry to fill the skills gaps it was facing. 

Tower Hamlets committed to creating 1,000 apprenticeships in the three years up to 2021 for jobseekers to tap into east London’s regeneration boom.