Emma Nichols ‘looked beyond’ and never looked back

6/2/20: National Apprentice Week’s theme of ‘Look Beyond’ asks people to look beyond the normal routes to employment and consider an apprenticeship. Emma Nichols is the current TClarke Apprentice of the Year and her own story fits the bill perfectly.

Although I had thought of becoming a mechanic, I actually ended up in education for several years. First of all I was involved in behavioural management for troubled children which was fairly intensive work. I followed this by moving into the child support team at a primary school. However, after some time, I realised this just wasn’t for me. I decided to take action and find a career that really suited me.

I knew I wanted to do something ‘hands on’ and had various ideas. I sat down with my dad and asked his advice and after some discussion he suggested that I should consider becoming an electrician.

My brother advised me against it!

The idea appealed and I asked one of my brothers who is a plumber if he could give me some work experience to help get me started, but he was cautious and a bit protective. He said that a construction site could be a very male environment and if I got any teasing, he would feel protective and wouldn’t be able to put up with it. His words made sense, but I wasn’t prepared to just give up.

In the next month I spent every other day at my local college – and then with training provider JTL,  finding things out and putting my name forward, signing up to the relevant websites that local companies used to find electrical apprentices. I kept at it and then, after a while, it paid off.

My good fortune was to be selected by TClarke

As it turned out I was extremely lucky – not just to get contacted by a company with apprenticeship opportunities, but for that company to be TClarke and for the call to come personally from the Director of TClarke South West, Rob Faro.

That phone call started a three year process that took me through interviews, a job offer and a complete electrical apprenticeship.

So today I am working onsite at Derriford Hospital, doing enabling work for the new Hybrid Theatres here and working with the TClarke electrical supervisor onsite, Steve Bellfield (pictured at work with Emma onsite). He gives me plenty of responsibility and support and I get a sense of being pushed forward to do the very best I can.

This has been a positive experience all the way

I want to stress that the reality with TClarke has been so positive – nothing like what my brother’s fears for a construction job suggested! This has been a great environment for me to learn, get help, work through my exams and find myself where I am now, building something so valuable for the local community, working with excellent people and building my own skills and knowledge. 

The fact that it was Rob Faro himself who contacted me in the first place tells you a lot about TClarke. People take apprenticeships very seriously at this company. You are expected to work hard and you are expected to succeed. 

Now I’m looking beyond to exciting career options

Winning the TClarke Apprentice of The Year Award last autumn was a great surprise and like all the finalists I was enrolled automatically on the TClarke Future Leaders programme and that gives me another layer of learning, networking and experience in the business. I did look beyond the other options, I did choose an apprenticeship, I did work hard, I did get all the things TClarke promised – and all in all, it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

This business believes in apprenticeships 

TClarke SW Director Rob Faro, who made that first call to Emma, comments on the company’s commitment and an interesting coincidence:

“Steve Bellfield is a great person to give Emma the guidance and support she needs to progress – I should know because a few years back he provided the same guidance and support to me as my mentor when I started out as a project manager. That fact tells you so much about TClarke and the way we support people in developing their careers. Emma is a great advert for our commitment to looking beyond but I think Steve is also a great example of the kind of mentor that you want.I’m sure Emma will get as much from his advice as I did !”