Working in the skilled trades is not an easy occupation – it’s physically demanding, with irregular hours and it takes passion. You have to really want to do it, otherwise you just won’t be good enough to keep the clients.
For John Fitzgerald, our Network Manager being a gas engineer was an obvious choice.
“I started working for my dad at the age of 12-13. I was doing wee jobs, just to get some pocket money. I was into motorbikes from young age, so my dad said if I worked he’d buy me motorbikes. So I started working for him most weekends, ‘cause I wanted money for motorbikes. And it worked out.”
John’s dad was one of the first British Gas engineers in Scotland, and he trained John so well that he got an apprenticeship with British gas when he was only 17. The gas engineering “spark” runs in the family. John’s son, Jonatan has also followed in the family footsteps, and combines school with studying about the gas industry. He’s starting his apprenticeship in August.
John believes in the power of the family to inspire, especially when it comes to the skilled trades industry.
“I saw how my dad worked with gas, and how he started his business, and I wanted to do it. He said to me then, that people will always need heating and hot water, and I’ll never be out of job. And sure enough, it’s true. Now one of my children has decided to come into the gas industry and learn from me. It’s a great feeling. “
John admits that coming from a family of engineers is certainly a big advantage. You end up growing in the right environment, there is a lot of knowledge transferred through the generations. You don’t need to experience everything on your own, chances are someone in your family has already been there. The family name helps as well – when your dad’s known for his professionalism the same expectations transfer to you, and you have to put effort to meet them.
Then there is also the learning part. Although there are adult education courses available for potential gas engineers, John is sceptical about training, which makes you an engineer in 6 weeks. The only way to learn the trade is through the right apprenticeship, and years of practice.
“When I was an apprentice I had 4 years of apprenticeships in just fitting. I learned how to fit the system, how to pipe it. Then I had to do a two-year course on fault diagnostic and rectification. Followed by a year out with an engineer. That’s seven years altogether from when I started as an apprentice ‘till doing it on my own. You can never get that training now, it’s impossible. But the reason I’ve decided to trust Chrs Scavington (Rightio Subcontractor) with my son’s apprenticeship is because he’s a trusted engineer. And my son will have a proper 4 year apprenticeship. He’ll learn all aspects of plumbing, gas, technical, drainage, there won’t be anything he won’t cover in these 4 years. That’s the level of training you need.”
John thinks that there should be more information available for young people, when it comes to learning the skilled trades.
The earlier one can start learning, the better, so there is no time to waste. There is a lot of technical knowledge required to become a Gas and Heating Engineer but once you’ve completed it, it guarantees a job for life, and an increasingly better income (as demand is growing).
John says he’s proud to come from a family of gas engineers, and to have followed his father’s footsteps. As a dad of four children now, he is equally proud of the paths they’ve taken in life, and happy he inspired one of them to continue the family tradition.