Designed to develop exceptional electricians of the future, the Bright Sparks apprentice scheme supports and promotes vocational education programmes as an attractive option and a viable career path to ensure the industry continues to attract and retain the very best talent. Here, Kirsten Campbell, one of the scheme’s few female apprentices, talks to ECN about her experience so far.
Currently, 60 colleges nationwide enjoy the support of CK Tools’ Bright Sparks scheme, which provides the partner colleges with bursaries and a selection of trade tools that the students can use while training, ensuring that they are getting to grips with the safest and best quality hand tools on the market. Kirstin Campbell, 22, is one of only two female apprentices on the scheme at Fife College, which has been a member of the initiative for three years.
Hairdressing or beauty therapy wasn’t for me!
Kirsten says: “I always knew I wanted to be something hands-on, like a plumber, joiner or electrician. My mum tried her best to raise a little princess, but I knew hairdressing or beauty therapy wasn’t for me! Unfortunately for mum, I am the biggest tomboy going.”
Despite her mum’s initial surprise, and some other comments from friends who told her that being a spark was a ‘boy’s job’, Kirstin hasn’t encountered any negativity from her male counterparts on the course. “Most of the other students on the course are boys, but everyone is very supportive on the apprenticeship and we all help each other out. It doesn’t make any difference that I am a girl, which is the way it should be.
“Training to be an electrician is great, as there are so many options out there once we are qualified. It’s also a good job for helping family out, and even now when we are still training, I occasionally help my cousin and he helps me out as he is training to be a plumber. It’s such a practical skill set to have.”
A good grounding
Before joining the scheme, Kirstin did a pre-apprenticeship Electrical Installation course, which provided her with an insight into the industry. “I knew what to expect of the apprenticeship and life as a spark thanks to my installation course, which gave me a good grounding and an insight into my chosen career,” explains Kirstin.
Since being part of the scheme, Kirstin has taken part in many different jobs that have provided her with a wide variety of hands-on experiences. “It’s difficult to choose a personal highlight as I have been lucky enough to gain experience of many different aspects of the job, but I have especially enjoyed fitting and installing solar panels.
“It is fascinating to see how solar panels work behind the scenes, and this is definitely an area that I’d like to gain more experience in. I hope to work on some more solar installation panels as they continue to grow in popularity,” adds Kirstin, who graduates from the course later this year.
After the apprenticeship, Kirstin hopes to become an electrician and has aspirations to run her own business in the future. CK Tools estimates more than 20,000 apprentices have passed through its Bright Sparks scheme since its launch in 2003.
Colin Martin, Kirstin’s electrical lecturer at Fife College, comments: “We highly value our place on the Bright Sparks scheme; the benefits for our course and apprentices are significant, enabling us to promote professionalism and quality when we teach thanks to the tools we are supplied. With ever decreasing budgets, this is something we simply couldn’t do without, and ensures we are able to provide the best for our students like Kirstin.
“As a department, we are delighted to be able to offer such excellent tools for classroom activities, as well as providing prizes for apprentice of the year awards. The Fife College team take great pride in seeing our apprentices grow into professional electricians and the support from CK Tools is a significant contributor to this.”