In National Apprenticeship Week, Adam Ellis-Hopwood talks about completely changing his job from being a chef to an apprentice for UK Power Networks.
After school, Adam Ellis-Hopwood spent 17 years working in catering in a variety of roles from pot washer to patisserie chef but stopped loving his work. His first step was retraining as an electrician, then joining one of UK Power Networks’ contractors Haste before spotting UK Power Networks’ experienced apprenticeship programme.
Adam, 38, living in Woking, started retraining in 2019 as a high voltage substation fitter, working on new and upgraded electricity substation projects that keep reliable power supplies flowing to homes and businesses across the South East. Adam, now fully qualified, says happiness at work is key and it’s never too late to learn for those wanting a career change.
“If you are stuck in a job you might feel you can’t transfer your skills, but you can. I was very surprised how my catering experience helped me because you must be precise with plating and cooking times. On the electricity network making electrical wiring on our equipment neat is key and precise measurements are needed when installing apparatus and busbars in substation compounds, so having an eye for detail is important. Think about the skills you have and how diverse that can be. Don’t typecast yourself.
“You are never too old to start again. I started in catering at 17 and left when I was 34 when I called ‘last check’ on my catering career. I have always been a big believer in having more than one string to your bow. I’m now part of the capital programme team that is building the future. We work in big grid and primary substations, running at up to 132,000-volts, and we modernise them to allow the continuity and reliability of electricity supplies.”
“This is the best apprenticeship experience I have ever had in my career. I cannot praise it enough. I was very fortunate to have the best manager I have ever had in my working life and he is now a friend. However, it wasn’t just him but the whole training team managers and training school staff who were so approachable and easy to talk to. The support was my favourite part of the apprenticeship. I was very fortunate to go through the apprenticeship with the people I did. There is a culture in the company of unity, integrity and respect.
“Twenty years ago, you could get into a job and that was it, but now people bounce in and out of jobs because of the speed of society. The job security in my new role is amazing and when I came here, I thought, if this goes well and if I have respect for what I do, this will be my job for life.
“After Christmas I remember getting into my van and starting my journey. As I did so I had a great big smirk on my face thinking ‘I’m going to work and I love my job’. I genuinely felt it and haven’t felt that for a long time.”
His advice to would-be apprentices is:
“Listen, take in what you can, don’t be afraid to say if you don’t understand and ask questions. Be respectful and don’t feel you have to know everything.”
Notes to editor
National Apprenticeship Week is shining a light on the benefits that apprenticeships can bring to individuals, employers and to the wider economy. At UK Power Networks 14 new craft apprentices and six higher apprentices will play a key role in the country’s transition to Net Zero, as the company enables communities to use low carbon technologies including electric transport and heating.
About Energy Networks Association
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the companies which operate the electricity wires, gas pipes and energy system in the UK and Ireland.
ENA helps its members meet the challenge of delivering electricity and gas to communities across the UK and Ireland safely, sustainably and reliably.
Its members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and Ireland, independent operators, National Grid ESO which operates the electricity system in Great Britain and National Grid Gas which operates the gas system in Great Britain. Its affiliate membership also includes companies with an interest in energy, including Heathrow Airport and Network Rail.
What are energy network operators?
Energy network operators manage and maintain the wires, pipes and other infrastructure which delivers electricity and gas to your home, business and community. They are private companies which are regulated by Ofgem and employ around 45,000 people in the UK and Ireland. They are represented by their industry body, Energy Networks Association (that's us).