Podcast discusses the challenges and rewards of apprenticeships

AN experienced lecturer and an up-and-coming learner from the same college have both talked frankly about the challenges and rewards of apprenticeships.

Andy Mackintosh and apprentice Ryan Murray from UHI Inverness discussed the respective ends of their electrical journeys in the fourth episode of the Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust (SECT) and SELECT’s Sparks’ Remarks podcast series.

The deputy curriculum lead for engineering technology, who is also operational manager at the college, said, “We now have podcasts and different media, as well as online learning, videos and the use of augmented reality, so it is really is exciting in terms of interactive applications.

“However, I think it’s about student achievement. You see students come in just out of school and their knowledge is very limited – it’s the old adage that they don’t know the difference between a lock nut and a hazel nut.

“Watching them progress through their apprenticeship and return as qualified electricians is great. Then you’re no longer teaching – it’s a peer conversation with robust discussion. It’s really enjoyable to have that, and rewarding to see that you were part of that journey.

“The challenging part is just keeping ourselves up to date and making sure that we are current and we are still effective at what we do.”

Asked about whether educational standards are slipping and whether school leavers need remedial work before they can progress, Andy replied, “Absolutely. Some will excel and they will go through it absolutely fine. Then there’s the percentage in the middle of the road that, with a little bit of what we call bridging, they will get there.

“Then there is the other 20% or so that may struggle, whether that’s through additional needs or whether it is through their comprehension in terms of the level of the pace at which the course has been set.

“It’s far too easy to jump on that. You have to think about the environment and the culture in which these children have grown up and it’s wildly different to the one in which we did. I grew up without any internet. You’re comparing apples and pears – it’s completely different.”

In the second half, Ryan – a second year apprentice employed by ANM Electrical in Inverness and currently training under Andy – tells the podcast how he initially studied as a panel beater, but soon realised his future prospects lay in the electrical sector.

The 24-year-old said, “It was something I always fancied doing. I have quite a few friends who were in the trade already, so from hearing their stories and how they were getting on at work, it just seemed like a fit for what I wanted to do in my life. I’m loving it.

“Coming into the apprenticeship a wee bit later, and having some experience behind me, perhaps made me a bit more prepared than some of my classmates

“Obviously, it’s a completely different course, and it’s definitely a lot harder in terms of the mental aspect of it with your maths – going back to that from school, which was obviously a long time ago.

“But it definitely did stand me in good stead in terms of what’s expected by an employer and how to get on with the work.”

Like the previous three episodes, the new podcast is aimed at existing and would-be apprentices and their employers, and is hosted by journalist Kim McAllister and Barrie McKay, Training and Development Manager at SECTT.

Barrie said, “We seemed to have struck gold with the people that we’ve asked to come on to the podcasts, who have really opened up about the benefits of being an apprentice.”

The first three episodes of Sparks’ Remarks features apprentices at all stages of their training who are now looking forward to a challenging career both at home and further afield.

April 2023’s launch episode, The good, the bad and the fallopian tube windups, was followed by More than wires and pliers: My first year as an apprentice which aired in July, then Five-way tag teams, the proud father and a kick up the bahookie in November.

Fiona Harper, CEO-designate of SECTT, which manages high-quality training on behalf of the Scottish Joint Industry Board (SJIB), said, “This latest podcast looks at the process from the standpoint of the teacher and the student and has some revealing insights into what makes apprenticeships so valuable as a learning experience.”