Apprenticeships: ‘It’s nice to get paid and secure valuable experience’

Katie Hynes (23) is one of a small number of women electrical apprentices with the ESB

Katie Hynes (23) is an apprentice electrical engineer with the ESB. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Katie Hynes (23) is an apprentice electrical engineer with the ESB. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Katie Hynes is one of just six women out of 270 students studying to become an apprentice network technician with the ESB.

Not that it bothers her in the slightest.

“Maybe some women might be unsure about fitting in, but I’ve had no negative experiences whatsoever,” she says. “You’re treated like one of the lads.”

Katie (23) started out in college studying marine biology but, after two years of academic work, she realised she wanted a more practical experience.

“While I enjoyed college, you’re stuck in a classroom or a lecture hall, with access to a lab maybe once or twice a week.

“My brother had done an apprenticeship. I just thought it was a really good option. I liked the idea of hands-on work as well as being educated about the technical side of things.”

The apprenticeship involves four years of work, split into alternate phases of classroom-based study and practical work.

Another benefit, says Hynes, is you get paid.

While many of her contemporaries are footing huge bills for college, electrical apprentices start out on €255 per week – gross – rising to €679 per week in fourth year.

“It’s nice that you’re getting paid and getting valuable experience,” she says. “There are lots of people in higher education taking out loans and getting into debt. By the time they qualify, they’re starting at the bottom of the ladder.”

For newly-qualified network technicians, by contrast, starting salaries are about €35,360, significantly above the average starting salary for a college graduate.

The ESB typically hires 60 or so apprentices each year at the end of their training.

Anne Gaskin, apprentice supervisor with ESB Networks, says the company is planning to recruit 300 apprentices over the coming years as part of a large-scale recruitment and development programme.

Applicants – who can apply during March – must pass some basic education qualifications and go through an interview process.

For those who don’t get taken on, the broader electrical trade qualification they pick up gives them the option to work in the trade as an electrician or travel abroad.

Katie, who is in her third year of training, is hoping to get recruited by ESB Networks at the end of next year.

“I love the climbing side of it – that’s my favourite part of it. Climbing masts or repairing overhead networks.

“I also like reconnecting people when they’ve lost power in a storm. There’s great job satisfaction in that.”