You may take the electricity that feeds your house for granted…but you probably shouldn’t. Keeping energy lines open is a challenging job and it’s also a very rewarding one. We spoke to Chris Buggins an apprentice from Central Networks to find out more.
Name: Chris Buggins
Qualifications: City and Guilds Certificate in Electrical Technology Engineering.
You’re an overhead linesman for Central Networks, can you tell us what that involves?
Mainly I build and maintain the overhead distribution lines, like poles and pylons, to make sure that electricity is transmitted throughout the Midlands. I deal with faults and make sure that people stay ‘on supply’…
Tell us about the E.ON UK apprenticeship scheme (which Chris is on) how long does that programme take?
I’m just starting my third year and should be finishing my apprenticeship in the next nine months.
How have you found the programme?
It’s been really well planned. They very slowly introduce you to everything so that you’re not bewildered. You also do a college course so you get a lot of background about what electricity is. When you go on site you can apply it and understand things a lot better.
Which college course did you attend?
It was the City and Guilds 2322 (Certificate in Electrical Technology). When I attended it, it ran for two years but I believe they finish it in a year now.
How did you fit that in with your hours ‘on the job’?
I did it in two week blocks at an external college.
Can you describe your typical day?
I come to the yard and then I see if there are any faults reports. If there’s been a storm, for example, I’ll be briefed, and then I’ll have to go out and work out the best way to solve it. It’s all about problem-solving and I really enjoy that.
What happens after you’ve finished your apprenticeship?
Because there’s so much to learn, even after you qualify youstill stay under someone’s wing. You get a mentor that looks after you, so you rely on them to teach you all the skills. I’ll probably stay with them for awhile until I get more responsibility. After that, you can probably get your own apprentice.
As I understand it, there are training centres all around the country?
Yes, I’m based at Worcester, but Central Networks has seven delivery centres throughout the Midlands.
What kinds of subjects did you study at school?
I did GCSEs and AS levels for one year in maths and science subjects. I found that the school environment didn’t really suit me (as I liked being outdoors) so I left to start at an engineering company where I got some experience in the office. After a year I came here and found that I really enjoyed it. It’s really practical and you’re out in the fresh air…it’s been a really good experience.
Do people appreciate what you do?
People do take the time to say ‘thank you’… Interaction with the customers is good.
What would you like to be doing in 10 or 15 years time?
I’m very happy here right now, and the good thing about the company is that there are loads of opportunities to rise and progress. You can go into project management and areas like that…the company is there to help you through it.
What is the single best thing about what you do?
If you enjoy excitement, being ‘hands on’, seeing different things every day and being outside, I can’t think of a better job. There’s so much varied work you can never get bored.
Your line of work was typically seen as being for men. Is there any reason why women can’t get involved?
There’s a girl I know on the scheme in Gloucester…there’s no reason why girls can’t do it. [E.ON, Central Networks’ parent company, is currently keen to employ more female apprentices].
What do you like to do outside of work?
I go to the gym three or four times a week, and I really enjoy sport.