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    Interview with SPARKS on the electrical apprentice of the year competition

    May 15, 2019

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    Interview with Celia Matthews
    3M recently hosted the SPARKS electrical apprentice of the year final in the Customer Innovation Centre in Bracknell. Grace Hinton, industrial placement student for electrical markets division, caught up with Celia Matthews, the Managing Director of SNG Publishing, to discuss how this year’s competition has been.

    • Apprentices in deep concentration

      3M recently hosted the SPARKS electrical apprentice of the year final in the Customer Innovation Centre in Bracknell. I caught up with Celia Matthews, the Managing Director of SNG Publishing, to discuss how this year’s competition has been.

      GH: Tell me a little about the company, your role and how it has evolved over time.

      CM: I founded SNG Publishing in 2006, with the aim to support electrical apprentices through college and help prepare them for the real world. I felt there was a real lack of support from the colleges at that time and I wanted to do something to help. I’ve been involved throughout the journey and it’s been very rewarding seeing so many thousands of students benefit from our learning resources and take pride in their career choice. The competitions give them confidence and that’s what it’s all about. They should be proud to be an electrician!

      GH: Congratulations on the 10th anniversary of the SPARKS Apprentice of the year competition! How has the competition developed over the past 10 years?

      CM: The first competition was very small, we only had a handful of students compete but now we have almost 80 colleges competing. The competition had been running in England and Wales for 8 years and we then launched the competition in Northern Ireland two years ago and next year we will be in Scotland. It’s very exciting!

      GH: Because it was the 10th anniversary, there were some added surprises at the final! How do you feel the 2019 competition went?

      CM: This year’s final has been the most challenging competition for the finalists, with much more involved in the test. They should all be extremely proud to have got this far at such an early part of their careers. It was a real celebration and the lecturers also got involved in some of the fun and games and made animals with the Wago connectors they were given! Sometimes I wonder who the learners are!

      GH: As an industrial placement student, I have found hosting the final very interesting. It will help me develop my career, whilst being involved in an event that develops the apprentice’s future careers. Why is it important to connect with the next generation of electrical engineers?

      CM: It’s essential that we, as an industry, support and engagement with the next generation as they start their careers. They are the future of the industry and it’s important that we give them all they need to make sure they start off well. There’s a Proverb that says, ‘Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.’ I believe that to be true in life. If we start kids off with the right tools and with confidence in their abilities, then they will succeed and be a credit to our industry.

      GH: I have also found it interesting to see the different route young people take through after school and how that can impact their careers. What advice would you give to school leavers when considering apprenticeships?

      CM: Personally, I’ve experienced both routes. When I left school, we all went into Higher Education and went to university to get our degrees. That’s just what you did. Then years later, I went into Further Education to gain my plumbing qualifications. I think greater awareness should be given at schools for apprenticeships just as much as the university route, an apprenticeship should be seen as an extremely valued qualification and career choice.

      GH: There was a special guest at the 2019 final – Chris Randall, SPARKS Apprentice of the year winner in 2011. How do you feel knowing winning the competition still helps him with his career?

      CM: It’s absolutely fantastic. I have heard similar stories from other winners of the SPARKS competitions so it’s very exciting to see that the rewards for all their hard work are still paying dividends to them.

      GH: Why is it beneficial for manufacturers in this industry to participate in events like these?

      CM: It’s in their interest to support the youth of the industry and train them on new technologies. In turn, the students are far more likely to be brand loyal to products that they train on at the beginning of their careers and go on using them.

      GH: How has 3M’s support helped you to run this competition?

      CM: 3M’s support has been invaluable to the SPARKS finals. All the work that goes on behind the scenes is incredible and both the electrical lecturers and the contestants hugely benefit from all the hospitality, and from such a renowned name in the industry! It’s a real treat for all of us to come to 3M, not only is the 3M headquarters state-of-the-art but perhaps most importantly, for students to see the Innovation Centre first hand is a massive inspiration for them. The quality of all the different designs and development is second to none and maybe a career path that some of these young engineers might embark on in some way in the future. Massive thanks go to our hosts, Gemma Brown and to Grace Hinton for making the event such a success for all involved.