PE visits the driving forces behind GSH Electrical and Joe Robinson Training to find out how YouTube is helping to inspire the industry’s next generation of electricians.
The roadworks that greet anyone approaching Corby on the A43 at the moment are a sight to behold. An ongoing roundabout reconstruction has led to something around about resembling a road. Even the usual black of the road has been covered by a thick brown dust from the construction work. Scattered cones are able to guide traffic through what’s left, but confusion reigns.
This is a confusion that should be all too familiar to Gary Hayers and Joe Robinson, having both been a part of the electrical industry for most of their lives. Joe encapsulates this industry when he says: “It’s always evolving. In fact, it’s quite challenging to keep up with all the changes happening at the moment.”
In a way, Gary and Joe – who are both employed as tutors at Tresham College – hope to be the cones that can guide learners on their road to becoming electricians, cutting through any confusion by simplifying things down to the very basics. This is evident right down to how they teach their students to strip cables, as Gary explains: “We don’t let them strip with wire cutters, as they’re too heavy-handed so they’ll damage the copper. We don’t let them strip with wire strippers, as they’ll never learn how to strip a wire without it. So, they learn to strip cable with a knife.”
And it was an attempt at simplifying things for their students that brought them both to YouTube. Funnily enough, although they had worked together previously, they created their channels entirely separately. It was pure coincidence that brought them together, as Joe explains: “Just by chance, somebody asked me if I could make off an SY cable into a gland, so I decided I’d check on YouTube to double check I got it 100% correct. I happened to find a video featuring Gary! From that point we reconnected and it all went from there.”
But what led a self-confessed technophobe like Gary to start his own YouTube channel? After all, he admits: “I once had the original iPhone in a box for nine months until the phone I had at the time failed!” Gary had also never seen a YouTube video two and a half years ago, yet has amassed over 18,000 subscribers on his channel, GSH Electrical, with Joe bringing their combined total over 20,000. Gary points to the influence of Joe as he reflects on how he started making videos using just his phone. He says: “When Joe got in contact with me, he offered me some useful advice: get yourself a microphone!”
However, this attitude perfectly summarises why they put so much work into their channels. Gary comments: “It’s got nothing to do with views for us; it’s about the learners that we meet. Every video we do is for them.” Joe adds: “I can spend five hours making a video that 120 people watch. But when you get those messages where people are thanking you, saying it’s just what they needed for their upcoming exam, that’s exactly what we’re doing it for.”
It’s an attitude that has driven them to where they are now, as Gary admits: “We wouldn’t be sitting here today if I hadn’t decided to get up every morning at 5:45, to get to work at 7:10, and to then shoot and edit videos in my own time.”
Qualifiers for the Qualified
It’s crucial for Gary and Joe that their videos prioritise those that are just starting to learn their way in the industry. This means they have to be very strict with the content they make, and the amount of information they reveal to the viewers. This is has led to some confusion for more experienced viewers.
Gary explains: “We’re aimed at training, not qualified. We’ll take people up to testing and fault finding at a Level 3 Apprenticeship framework, but we won’t take it as far as someone like David Watts (SparkyNinja). A lot of people ask why we didn’t carry on further, but that’s because we only need a certain amount of information to be retained, and not take things two steps too far so the fundamentals are forgotten.”
But that’s not to say their content isn’t relevant for the qualified viewers, as Joe points out: “I still get comments from people that qualified decades ago, and they’re saying how they like to be reminded of things to go back over. That shows a real commitment to understanding your subject area – you might not be sitting an exam, but you want to understand something deeper.” Gary adds: “We’re just incredibly lucky that the way we’ve tried to help our learners has had the rebound effect of other people watching us.”
For the Love of the Industry
This passion that drives them both in their teaching stems from a love developed over the course of their journeys in this industry. For Gary, his heart was set right from the start: “When I was asked what I wanted to do after I left school, my answer was always the same: to work for East Midlands Electricity. I didn’t say I wanted to be an electrician, I’d already chosen the company I wanted to work for!”
Joe’s entrance into the industry was far more coincidental, as he explains: “I happened to meet someone [while working with my Dad on a construction site] that was looking for an apprentice. I thought it was absolutely fantastic, and I just decided that this is what I was going to do. They took me on and I was very blessed in that sense.”
Joe summarises their journeys: “One path is the more traditional way; you apply, you go through the process, you slog it out against the competitors and you get the job. The other one is a case of meeting the right people. Go and speak to people that your parents know, speak to contacts in the industry, and something may come of it.”
From these beginnings, Gary and Joe have gone on to build something that can start to affect those that will be the future of this industry. Gary concludes: “There’s no money in [YouTube], and I’m not looking for people’s thanks. I’m just having a go and doing the best I can. I do it for the love of the industry, an industry that I have loved since I was 16. My channel won’t change the industry; Joe’s won’t change the industry. You can only affect the learners you have, and hopefully that’s going to change the industry one learner at a time.”
And what does the future hold for GSH Electrical and Joe Robinson Training? Gary reveals: “We have got a joint venture together that may become live in the next six weeks. GSH Electrical and Joe Robinson Training will continue in their current forms, but we’ve been working behind the scenes for a little while on something that should be available shortly. Watch this space!”
Gary and Joe are more than happy to receive suggestions from the PE readers for future videos. You can view their videos and subscribe their channels at:
Joe Robinson Training