A week in the life of a HV fitter apprentice: Cameron Gailbraith
From providing a pipeline of fresh talent to upskill and bolstering an increasingly competitive workforce, to boosting levels of fulfilment and productivity, there are so many reasons why employers welcome the opportunity to onboard apprentices. This is true for most industries, but particularly in the electric engineering space — with organisations keen to transfer knowledge and skills from experienced workers to the next generation, to remain innovative and responsive to change.
As a company committed to fostering young talent in the industry, Smith Brothers offers a range of exciting opportunities for people to learn, grow and develop. In return for their service, we equip successful candidates with the right resources and insight to work throughout the UK on our expanding number of projects – as well as a permanent position at the company, upon completion of the course.
To offer a flavour of life in such a position, this series explores the valuable role next-generation talent play in shaping the world of electrical engineering, and poses some food for thought for would-be apprentices. First up, it’s Cameron Gailbraith…
Name: Cameron Gailbraith
Job title: HV fitter apprentice
1. How long have you been working at Smith Brothers?
I have been with the company for a little over a year and a half now — having joined with the September 2021 apprentice intake. In this time, I have gained valuable experience, knowledge, and skills on a variety of high voltage projects.
2. And how did you first hear about the opening?
I was lucky enough to hear about Smith Brothers through a neighbour, who is a mutual friend with somebody at the company. When I trawled the website for vacancies, I saw that they were running an apprenticeship scheme, so I applied, and the rest is history!
3. What sets Smith Brothers apart from other organisations?
The firm offers such a vast variety of work — from new substation builds such as battery storage, solar and wind farm connections, and gas peaking, where you get the opportunity to work with brand new equipment and technology — to maintaining old switchgear and transformers. This is essential when looking to develop your experience and skills in all aspects of the industry, rather than in one single, niche discipline.
4. How does the position compare to when you first joined?
As time has progressed and I’ve been trusted with a wider scope of work, I have a greater responsibility to complete tasks to the highest possible standards. While undeniably daunting at first, this level of expectation helps me challenge myself, enhance my skillset, and improve my work ethic too.
5. Finish the following sentence. The biggest misconception surrounding apprenticeships is:
That they are only for people who are fresh out of school or college. Apprenticeships can be crucial for people of any age, providing hands-on training and experience, while being paid and part of a wider culture. This can be a good gateway into any industry, not just the electrical engineering space.
6. What three words would you use to describe your role?
Practical — because we work on-site with a range of hand and power tools every day.
Challenging — this industry certainly isn’t easy, but this helps develop a key level of resilience.
Diverse - from working on lots of different jobs, but also with lots of different people from various sectors and backgrounds.
7. Give us a flavour of what your working week looks like:
For me, no two weeks are never identical. However, each consists of learning new practices and processes, as well as building upon my skillset in some form — whether that’s helping to build a new transformer, install switchgear, or undertake something else — for both mine and the company’s mutual benefit. Whatever I’m up to, there’s no shortage of laughs on-site with my colleagues!
8. And what’s your favourite thing you’ve done, to-date?
My favourite aspect of the job so far has been transformer builds. It’s really interesting to see what the process consists of — especially for 132kV transformers — and offers a real level of satisfaction when finalised.
9. Where do you hope your role progresses, once the apprenticeship is complete?
Post-apprenticeship, there are so many different avenues and routes I could follow — for example, becoming an SAP (senior authorised person) engineer or project manager. In recent times, commissioning and testing have become keen interests of mine. So, who knows? But, I’m excited to see where I progress.
10. Finally, please offer some words for other would-be apprentices:
I would highly recommend following the apprenticeship route. The hands-on, real world experience you gain is invaluable compared to going to university. In addition to this, you’re earning a wage — which means your personal life doesn’t need to take a hit. I would also really recommend the high voltage electrical industry — playing a part in driving renewable energy projects gives great job satisfaction.
If you feel inspired by Cameron’s experience, and want to learn more about apprenticeship opportunities with Smith Brothers, please get in touch or head over to our careers page.