Schneider Electric caught up with Matt Taylor – winner of the SPARKS UK Electrical Apprentice of the Year Award 2018.
As we edge closer to the regional heats for the 2019 competition, Matt reflected on a once-in-a-lifetime achievement.
Launched by SPARKS magazine in 2010, the SPARKS UK Electrical Apprentice of the Year award recognises some of the most talented electrical apprentices working in the industry today.
It gives young apprentices the chance to demonstrate their skills and win recognition at an early stage of their careers. The competition also unites tutors, sponsors and industry leaders in helping develop the next generation of electricians.
Each year, candidates are chosen from a series of seven regional heats held across the country. The winners then gather to compete for the ultimate prize – the title of Apprentice of the Year, prize money and equipment for their college and their own personal use.
Last year’s winner Matt Taylor, is a Farnborough College of Technology student and has been training as a full-time apprentice at Inspired Electrical Contractors Ltd. in Aldershot.
He said: “I remember applying because I really wanted to challenge myself.
“My college definitely encouraged me, but what really drove me is that I wanted to see what I could do under pressure.”
Candidates had to first make it through their own regional heat before they could advance. A winner and the highest-placed non-winner from each region made it through to the two-day grand finale at the 3M Customer Innovation Centre.
The contest saw competitors given instructions to set up and install a series of complicated electrical circuits. It challenged every skillset the candidates had developed during apprenticeship, including wiring, conduit bending, setting up a consumer unit, bulbs and switches.
The candidates had to keep to strict, real-world specifications and were given ten hours to complete their work. On the second day, their circuits were live tested and judged by an expert panel. After finishing in the quickest time and meeting all electrical regulations and health and safety requirements, Matt was crowned the winner.
The 2018 competition was the most difficult to date. Matt remembers that the competition was fierce and there were only two marks between him and second-place. However, he tried not to let the pressure get to him and recommends that future candidates stay calm and have fun with the challenge.
He said: “I knew this was my one opportunity to win, but I didn’t want my nerves tripping me up. I took my time to read the specifications carefully and tried to have a bit of fun with it.”
Alongside the support and tutelage of college lecturer Richard Taylor, Matt credits his win to the on-the-job experience he gained during his apprenticeship. As an apprentice at Inspired Electrical Contractors Ltd., Matt had the opportunity to work first-hand on numerous rewiring and newbuild projects in London.
“As tight as the marking scheme was, there was nothing there I hadn’t seen before. I’d definitely say that all the real, on-site experience I’ve gotten as an apprentice helped me over the line,” he said.
Schneider Electric supported the 2018 competition as the event’s Platinum Sponsor. It donated much of the equipment used during the contest and gave prizes to Matt, the runner-up and their colleges.
Farnborough College received £1,000 of Schneider Electric products, and Matt has been given the opportunity to select £1,500 worth of equipment from the company.
Matt said: “I’ve worked with lots of Schneider Electric equipment in the past – breakers, switches and distribution boards – and I’ve always found them to be dependable and easy-to-use. After my win, Schneider Electric gave me the choice of what I wanted as a prize. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out what I should get!”
Following his win, Matt intends to achieve his qualifications and get as much experience as possible in the different areas of the electrical trade. Someday, he may even set up his own electrical contracting business.
Reflecting on his experience as an electrical apprentice, Matt explained how his training has opened new doors for him and can do the same for others: “You wouldn’t get these kinds of opportunities doing anything else. I think young people should be enthusiastic about what being an apprentice can offer – it’s a great way to earn while you learn.”
If you are interested in taking part in the SPARKS UK Electrical Apprentice of the Year award, make sure you register your interest now!