It was an honour to be invited to speak to a class of mature students by Craig Buist, Head of Curriculum at one of London’s top performing vocational colleges today.
Indeed, since 1938, Waltham Forest College has been providing vocational and technical courses for thousands of students. At the time of writing, it has around 2000 16–19-year-olds on full-time study programmes and 5000 adult learners. It was a class of the latter who are aiming to enter the electrical industry that Craig asked me to have a chinwag with, virtually this time unlike my trip to Tresham College in 2019, but then the world is a different place today and it makes sense to Zoom where possible!
Not that I consider myself to be an expert in anything other than how David Savery Electrical Services came to be where it is today, and not that where it is today is any kind of real success story you understand. I mean, I’m not a millionaire overseeing an empire of electrical employees from the deck of my yacht here, but I guess those entering the industry probably just want the skinny on how to get started and can figure out their own path from there!
So, my thanks to Craig whose own input on the industry can be found on the UK Electrician’s Show podcast linked below, and to the students who patiently listened to an old white guy’s waffle without looking too disinterested (aside from that guy at the back). I hope there was something of use in among my rambling there.
As for mature students, my own experience of having people out on the van for work experience, be that as part of a formal college placement or someone acting off their own bat, often shows how much of a better investment a mature candidate can be for a business. Many large electrical companies are only interested in taking on youngsters for their cheap labour; they then do little to build up their inspection and testing knowledge because all they really want are people who can chase walls and haul cables, but a mature candidate comes with certain advantages to a business.
Yes, they may demand higher pay than that of a school-leaver, but they’re past pissing around and are in the knuckle-down stage of their working lives. They have bills to pay and are prepared to work more conscientiously. They’re more likely to be skilled in the use of hand and power tools out of necessity from the upkeep on their own homes. They’ve experienced a working life they don’t want and are retraining for the life they do want which means they’re motivated, prepared to study for it and will take an active interest. They’ll also have working experience either indirectly, i.e., experience of work, albeit in an unrelated industry, or more relevant practice if they’re coming from a technical background.
Good personnel are where you find them. While many believe you have to select a school/college leaver and shape them accordingly, there’s a lot of value in taking on someone going through that 25–45-year-old’s career change many of us experience.
Hell, it happened to me. I got to being 38 and two decades into a career in Telecomms before I figured it was time to start anew. Now, ten years later, I’m being asked to speak about it to others. Not that it means I did it right or that I’m any authority on mid-life career switching outside of the fact that if I can do it, anyone reading this probably can too.
And am I glad I made the change when I did in the way I did?
But not everyone who wants to change career also wants the burden of running a business which is why I say established companies should look at mature candidates and not just the 16/17-year-olds. Too many businesses see mature candidates as a threat – ‘we show you how it works and you’ll nick all our clients’, but it doesn’t have to be like that. If you’re in a position to offer experience and that person does go on to form their own business, they can be someone to partner with on certain jobs or someone where work can be referred to if too much is coming in.
The only businesses scared of the competition are those who aren’t confident in themselves. If you’re doing a good job at the right price, there’s no reason for your customers to be abandoning you for some upstart.
SumUp - XXI