National Grid has operated an apprenticeship programme for over fifteen years, designed to give young people the skills and experience to become fully qualified engineers.
National Grid is an international electricity and gas company and one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the world. It employees approximately 10,400 people in the UK.
It currently has advanced apprenticeships in the UK electrical and gas transmission areas of its business. The number of apprenticeships available is largely dependent on business requirements but is usually around 40 per year.
The company currently offers an advanced apprenticeship in engineering maintenance gas transmission and an advanced technical apprenticeship for the electricity industry.
An apprenticeship typically lasts three years, depending on the programme.
"But, these are just guidelines," says Will Large, National Grid's technical programmes manager. "Our apprenticeships are based on the achievement of a specified set of outcomes. This means that the length of the programme may be reduced for apprentices who have previously gained relevant knowledge or experience that can be formally accredited."
Candidates apply via the National Grid website [new window] using an online application process. This becomes available in September, ready for those that are awarded places to begin the following September. It entails an application form that asks for basic details and a situational judgement questionnaire.
Candidates must have five GCSEs (grade A-C) including a minimum of a grade B in maths and be aged 16 or over at the start of the apprenticeship.
"We also take into consideration how far away candidates live from the base location to ensure that they can get to and from work easily," says Large.
Once the applications have been received, the company conducts telephone screening interviews with potential candidates. Successful candidates at this stage are invited to an assessment centre, which includes an interview, a manual dexterity test, a climbing assessment (where applicable), situational judgement test, a test for colour blindness and a qualifications validation.
National Grid's apprenticeship programmes comprise the following elements:
Training delivery is a combination of formal and informal tuition, experiential learning, distance learning, computer-based training, projects and assignments.
Apprentices attend an off-the-job induction programme for the first four weeks of the programme. This is designed to welcome apprentices into the organisation and help them to make the transition from education to the workplace. They are then given a site induction before commencing work at their allocated base location.
Mentors are assigned for each apprentice for the duration of the programme to help them settle into their role and put their formal training into practice. Mentors are encouraged to meet with apprentices on a weekly basis while they complete their on-the-job training.
Each apprentice is given an individual learning and assessment plan, detailing the programme's content, estimated timescales for achievement, training venues, review periods and the name of their mentor. The apprentices' progress and all aspects of the training are reviewed every ten weeks against the plan.
Apprentices are given a performance rating at each review, where they are classed as working below, on, or above target.
Those that maintain a minimum of an "on target" rating receive a salary increment after a minimum of nine months and may receive a non-pensionable bonus payment of £250 for sustained "above target" performance in any year of the programme. Now that's motivation!