Tony Cable has enjoyed a lot of success in his time in the electrical industry, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Here Tony remembers one incident that could have ruled him out of the industry before he had even started!
Last month I told you of my impending retirement and my life as a sparks, but I want to take you back to when I was an apprentice and one thing that dramatically changed my life.
I was 18 and in college, studying hard for my B Course. At least I was supposed to be. I did little or no study at all – resulting in me failing the course!
I was summoned to see the Personnel Manager who was absolutely fuming. I had changed companies as an apprentice and they had taken me on under the condition that I put in the extra effort. I had let them down. “We will not send you to college anymore,” I was told, “you will work for us every day”.
That was a shock to me as, usually, if you failed a year they let you repeat it. Unfortunately not for me, as the report from the college was also pretty damning.
I wanted the qualifications but the only route left for me was night school. I went along to enrol and the first shock was that I had to pay for it myself. The second shock was the schedule. The course was held on three nights a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday; my social life was in tatters!
The third shock was when I attended the first class. I was 18 and most of the others in the class were above 30.
“It completely changed my life as it made me realise what an idiot I had been squandering the opportunity I had. I became a model student, soaking up all the knowledge I could.”
My new classmates were there because they were looking to learn new skills and start a new career. I had been a day release student, with a class of fellow apprentices that did not really want to be there. If we had a weak lecturer we learnt very little. Now I was surrounded by a bunch of guys that, because of their age and the fact that they had left education many yeas previously, really struggled. They worked hard, asking question after question of the lecturer until they fully understood the subject.
It completely changed my life as it made me realise what an idiot I had been squandering the opportunity I had. I became a model student, soaking up all the knowledge I could. I went on to complete my B and C courses and continued on to ONC until I was about 22 and a journeyman electrician.
Those older students were the ones who, without realising it, made me really value what I was learning. When I was 39 I went into a college as a lecturer and without those qualifications I would have not been able to even apply for the post.
Whoever would have thought that failing a course would have changed my life for the better?