50 Jobs in 50 Days: Jobs drive charges ahead as electrical contractor joins up
Electrical contractor Gordon Bickerstaff is the latest businessman taking up the Belfast Telegraph's gauntlet to encourage more apprenticeships into the workplace.
Having already steered three apprentices through his Belfast business, the Belfast tradesman is set to welcome another budding young spark into his business within days.
His newest recruit takes the total apprentices pledges made since the start of the Belfast Telegraph's 50 Jobs in 50 Days to 21.
Through his home-based business, GB Data NI, Mr Bickerstaff employs nine people and sub-contracts to around 20 more.
One of the firm's apprentices has already completed his training and Mr Bickerstaff is currently helping two more young people get on the first rung of the trade's ladder.
Much of Gordon's business is centred on Northern Ireland schools, hospitals, offices and industry.
He also specialises in the installation of fibre optic and computer networking and cabling for internet and telecommunications.
Mr Bickerstaff said his apprentices experience "all aspects of the job" from testing to remedial work.
"The young lads go out with a fully qualified electrician and they're not just tracking walls and filling skips, they're doing every type of electrical work with me," he said.
It is at this coalface that his apprentices learn the skills and expertise of the business.
That essential, on-the-job immersion in the trade is supplemented by industry-standard training at the Electrical Training Trust in Ballymena.
He said his apprentices attend college when required and will be fully-qualified after gaining recognised qualifications. And the apprentices can continue working with him afterwards – "if they cut the mustard," he said.
Mr Bickerstaff said apprenticeships were often a positive way forward as challenges still existed for smaller tradesmen and businesses like his.
"In the current climate, you take what you can get and there are very large companies which have gone to the wall in recent times so you don't know what's going to happen from one day to the next."
But he said he was hopeful for the future of the economy and that things were "picking up".
The 50 Jobs in 50 Days Campaign was launched by the Duke of York, who also spoke in favour of apprenticeships at a Society of Editors event this week.