With the JTL National Awards taking place in July, we caught up with the winner of National Apprentice of the Year at the 2020 awards, Ellen Lodge. Ellen tells us about her experience as an apprentice at JTL and how the skills she learnt will now inform her work as she steps into her role as programme director.
Ellen started her apprenticeship journey with the unlikely beginning of pursuing a music technology course at college. It was during her time at college that she discovered her passion and intrigue lay more in the technical sides of music production than anything else. Specifically, she wanted to get her hands behind-the-scenes focusing on the lighting and the electronics that made any of it possible.
Ellen told us: “I was realising this type of learning experience wasn’t right for me. I wanted to be out there actually practising my work, where I could be making money at the same time instead of being stuck inside the classroom.”
Ellen only found out about apprenticeships because her father had spoken to her about them, she had originally attended an all-girls grammar school which only ever pushed her towards routes such as hairdressing and nursing.
“If it wasn’t for him explaining the process as he understood it, I never would have even considered that an apprenticeship was an option for me.
“I quickly started looking into work as an electrical apprentice – a few close friends had explained that if I progressed within electrical engineering, I would eventually gain the tools to be able to specialise in production lighting later on.”
Searching online for apprenticeships in her area, Ellen discovered an online map in which she could spot local vacancies. The map had been designed by JTL and was housed on the leading provider’s website, and it would be how Ellen found the apprenticeship that changed her life.
“I genuinely have nothing bad to say about my apprenticeship experience, I settled in so quickly and loved every moment of the learning process. There’s something uniquely valuable about being able to learn theory in a classroom environment and then be able to see that theory implemented. It just sticks with you so much more.”
Although she completed her apprenticeship a few years ago, Ellen didn’t blink when asked to recall the names of both her JTL training officer and her college lecturer. She credited them both as the highlights of her apprenticeship.
“My JTL training officer was Barry Robinson; he gave me so much good advice over the years, and he worked harmoniously with both my employer and my lecturer at college, Ray Vidler.
“One particular piece of advice that has always stood out from Barry was about dealing with your workload. He told me to always get my head down and get it done, but get it done effectively. It sounds simple but it’s really stuck with me, that process of breaking things down methodically so the job gets done properly.”
And that advice clearly did stick with Ellen, because not only did she go on to win the JTL National Apprentice of the year award, but she is now due to start a new role as the programme director at Dover Technical College. It was in the education and training sector where Ellen found her place – recognising in students the same look she once had when she realised an apprenticeship was the perfect option for her.
With experience and determination, Ellen used her position as a tutor to share her experiences in electrical engineering with a new generation of aspiring electricians. Quickly, she found herself rising the ranks within Dover Technical College, where she will soon lead the teaching strategy for the very courses she once took. Ellen shared this advice for anyone considering an apprenticeship:
“In my opinion, an apprenticeship is one of the best routes you can take. If I had any advice to give someone just starting out, it would be to go in headfirst – don’t be scared. Four years can sound like a long time, but in the grand scheme of things you’re getting more freedom at your age than most. If an apprenticeship is truly something you want to do, don’t let anything hold you back.”
If you’re interested in reading more about how an apprenticeship could work for you then take a look at our full listing of courses here.