Meet the NIE Network Apprentices

Skills Northern Ireland has been sponsored by NIE Networks since the event launched in 2016. Each year, the company brings along apprentices to inspire the 14-19 year olds that visit Skills Northern Ireland and to highlight to teachers and parents that apprenticeships are a great way for young people to earn while they learn, kick-starting their careers.

Read on to find out from four NIE Network apprentices what their roles entail, why they chose to do an apprenticeship and why they love their jobs!

Ryan Morgan (32), an Overhead Lines Apprentice from Newry, joined NIE Networks in 2018 after ten years of working as a paramedic in the health service.

“I studied science and maths at school and after returning home from living in Australia for a year I embarked on training as a paramedic. It was a hugely rewarding career but after ten years of service I wanted a change. I saw an advertisement for the NIE Networks Apprenticeship Programme in my local paper and the opportunity of a career that allowed me to work outdoors in a highly skilled engineering role really appealed.

It wasn’t an easy decision to leave a career that I knew so well and retrain in something entirely different, but I knew I was up for the challenge and especially because I could see the long-term potential in engineering  as a career. It’s a sector that is changing all the time and the innovation taking place especially around renewable energy is an exciting project to be part of.

The recruitment process for the apprenticeship was tough with a range of practical and theory-based assessments, but I took the time to prepare and researching NIE Networks really opened my eyes to the different roles and career paths available.

We spend one day each week at college and the rest of the time we are out on site with supervised on-the-job learning. I came from a job where I was knowledgeable, but this is starting right from the beginning. It’s challenging but I love the hands-on learning approach.

Receiving the Energy Horizons Bursary has been the perfect end to my first year and I’m immensely proud to have received the recognition. It goes to show with the right support around you anything is possible.”

Jack Hoy (23), a first year Overhead Lines Apprentice from Donaghmore, was studying for a degree in Energy, but felt the NIE Networks Apprenticeship Programme gave him the perfect route to realising his career dreams.

“In many ways I had thought University was the only higher education option available and I hadn’t realised what an apprenticeship could do for my career. I was studying for a BSc in Energy but I knew it wasn’t the right fit for me and I was hoping to find a training option in the energy sector that would keep me stimulated. I also knew I didn’t want to be behind a desk all day but outdoors in the fresh air.

After spotting NIE Networks engineers working nearby on my drive home one day I started to research the company and when I found the apprenticeship programme I knew I had found exactly what I was looking for.

I always thought an apprenticeship was learning from a distance but here at NIE Networks it’s totally the opposite. I’m encouraged every day to put into practice what I’ve been taught at the training school. Even after just one year I’ve started to build up a strong knowledge of the job and the training team has really helped support me from the ground up.

Like every job there are days that are tougher than others, especially when it’s pouring rain, but when you rise to the challenge and then receive recognition for that hard work through securing an IET Bursary, it’s such a satisfying feeling. I can’t see myself doing anything else.”

Molly Guy (20), a Cable Jointing Apprentice from Bangor, joined NIE Networks in 2016 and is currently in the final year of her apprenticeship.

“I knew early on that I wanted to pursue an apprenticeship after I finished school and that I wanted it to be in a hands-on sector. My research led me to discover the NIE Networks Apprenticeship Programme and after reading about the training, support and salary it provided, I submitted my application. Thankfully I was successful and joined the Cable Jointing engineers.

People always think NIE Networks engineers only work up poles but cable jointing is another discipline and our work is to look after the thousands of miles of electricity cable that run through the ground across Northern Ireland. My final year involves practical and written assessments, but mainly I have been on site, sharpening my skills.

The apprenticeship has been more challenging than I expected and as I’m dyslexic it has taken me a little longer to learn written theory over the practical activity. No matter what stage I was at though, I got through it thanks to the support of my managers and team who were right behind me every step of the way.

I love being on-site in the thick of things and it’s a pleasure bringing electricity to customers, especially new homes for families. To be part of the story where someone has been waiting for years to have their dream home built and our work makes their lights turn on, is really very special.

I will be so proud when I qualify. If anyone, especially females, are considering a job in engineering or an apprenticeship I would definitely encourage them to apply. There are so many opportunities open to you.”

Neil Freeburn (34), a Cable Jointing Apprentice from Ballymoney, is currently in the final year of his Apprenticeship.

“It was inevitable that I would end up in an engineering career because growing up I had so much inspiration around me as my Dad and Grandfather had a real passion for engineering and were always working on one invention or another.

I didn’t take a direct route here though and spent the best part of a decade working as an environmental business consultant before joining the Apprenticeship in 2016. It was a huge change but one I was ready for as I wanted to work outdoors and follow my interest in engineering.

Balancing my family commitments with study and work life has required huge commitment and the learning curve has been immense, but the training and support provided has been first class. Managing that balance and being rewarded by winning the Bursary is an achievement I’m so proud of.

There are so many amazing opportunities with NIE Networks, especially around career development and progression. If anyone was considering an apprenticeship I would say go for it.  If you are focused, have a positive attitude, are willing to learning and want a promising career with huge possibilities, NIE Networks is the place for you. I might not have finished my apprenticeship just yet but I already know my career is here at NIE Networks and I have my sights set on applying for the Apprentice to Graduate Programme in the future.”

If you would like to meet apprentices like Jack, Ryan, Molly and Neil visit Skills Northern Ireland on 20 and 21 November. Visit skillsni2019.eventbrite.co.uk to register for FREE tickets.

To find out more about Skills Northern Ireland visit https://prospectsevents.co.uk/our-events/skills-northern-ireland/northern-ireland-2019