We speak to Samantha Jones, an ex-JTL apprentice whose training has taken her career across the pond to brand new heights.
PE- How did your journey start? How did you find out about apprenticeships?
SJ- I did just that. I called my now employer Melvyn John and asked if he was looking for any new staff. He said yes, his current apprentice had just qualiﬁed so he was looking to recruit a new one and he said he’d give me the chance. That was how he worked – he always had an apprentice but took one on at a time. He introduced me to JTL – he had used JTL as the training provider for his other apprentices and was happy with what they offered. The rest is history! He introduced me to Nigel Tippen at JTL and he became my Training Officer.
PE- It’s still relatively rare to meet an electrician that isn’t a bloke! What first attracted you to a career in the electrical sector?
SJ- It was suggestion from my dad! I was working in the care industry, caring for adults with learning difficulties, and whilst this was rewarding I felt I needed something ‘different’ to do to keep me interested! He suggested becoming an electrician and said I should call a friend of his who ran an electrical contracting company and see if he was taking on apprentices!
PE- Did you adjust immediately to working in a predominantly male oriented working environment? Were there any issues or did you find that you were accepted fairly quickly by your fellow apprentices?
SJ- You know I did! For me there were no issues at all. I guess being an older candidate helped – I was 21 – not 16 and just out of school and I’d done a few things in life that gave me more confidence, so I seemed to ﬁt in straightaway. It’s a small company – just the five of us and I had to prove I was competent – the others felt conﬁdent of my abilities and my enthusiasm for the job and realised it wasn’t just a fad and I didn’t want to go back to something girlie! They accepted me very well I think.
PE- Tell us about your employer and the kind of work you are currently undertaking?
SJ- I joined Melvyn John Electrical Contracting based in The Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire – there are just the ﬁve of us. But it’s not just domestic electrical work. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to work on commercial and industrial installations as well during my apprenticeship and that has really helped. I have done a lot of work for SPP Pumps in Coleford who manufacture on and offshore pump sets for the oil and gas industry. We are responsible for design and installation of the cable management systems and we wire each pump set. We also get involved in the manufacture of containerised ﬁre pump houses – which can be fabricated inside 40 feet long shipping containers.
PE- I understand you won an impressive competition that saw you heading to the USA for six weeks last year? Tell us about it, what you had to do and perhaps about a few of the experiences you had whilst you were out in the States?
SJ- Yes – I can still hardly believe I won that opportunity! I was the apprentice exchange winner in the JIB (Joint Industry Board) Overseas Apprentice Exchange Scheme for 2016 and spent six weeks in the USA, travelling out there. In New York it is much more likely that the electrician is a woman!There’s a group called the Amber Light Society, a Union Group, made up of females within the Industry.
They welcome all females in the area to join, regardless of division or charter, as a sisterhood and they celebrate the diversity of their membership, always remembering to put the interest of the union and the ALS before their own. I had the privilege of attending one of their monthly meetings, seeing for myself how positive and supportive they are with one another and towards the union.
After completing my OSHA exam over the weekend and printing off the certiﬁcate, my ﬁrst port of call on Monday morning was the JIB office in New York where I found out about my first placement. After arriving and meeting up with Tim Calascibetta, Associate Apprentice Director at the Joint Industry Board, I was given contact details for George Cabana, a site Foreman situated at the Empire State Building working for E.J Electric! Imagine that! First job – up the Empire State Building!
My placement was on the 67th ﬂoor, helping to complete a refurbishment of an office block. I was able to wire all the radiator valves in the office block and helped with the cable management system. I also had the privilege of a behind the scenes tour of the building which included taking in the amazing views from the observation room at the top of the mast, walking around the inside the mast where all the lighting is contained and walking around the outside of the mast on the service deck that contains all of the antennas for the building. I also worked at the Sony office at 11 Madison Avenue, 432 Park Avenue Apartments – which rises to 1,396 feet above New York and a top floor flat recently sold for over $90 million!
My ﬁnal job was at Madison Square Gardens – I had the privilege of helping to install a brand new HD Projector System in the in the roof overlooking the stadium.
PE- What advice would you give any other young women thinking seriously about getting into the electrical sector? Would you suggest they mimic your journey do you think?
SJ- Do it! The electrical sector is a diverse one and you can develop your career in whichever direction you want to. I’d urge any young woman or young man for that matter, to give it a go and open as many doors as possible. Apprenticeships are a great way to learn a trade and get paid for doing it!
PE- What does the future hold for Sam Jones? You are qualiﬁed now, so what plans do you have for the future? Where do you see yourself in ﬁve years’ time?
SJ- I’ll soon be doing my Test and Inspect course in Bristol – six days of additional training! I’d like to do my HNC Level 4 back at college soon – that will be another year’s commitment. In five years’ time? I’m actually very happy doing what I do but I guess one day I’d like to have my own business. I’m particularly interested in the design side of things, getting involved in the planning and building of installations – maybe that’s the route I’ll follow! Come back and talk to me in ﬁve years and I’ll tell you which route I took!