Centre case studies - Energy Technical Academy

08 Apr 2021

Life's no joke - from comedy to combi-boilers!

Energy Technical Academy re-trains comedian, Gary Faulds, as a gas engineer.

At the start of last year, Scottish comedian Gary Faulds had hit the big time. He had an international tour planned. Arenas were selling out fast and he’d already sold thousands of tickets. Then the Coronavirus Pandemic hit and almost overnight, Gary lost everything. The tour was cancelled, the beautiful flat he was renting, the car he was leasing all disappeared and he was left homeless and jobless. As he had only been self-employed for a year he wasn’t able to access any government support, so things really were in a mess and he was eating through his savings at a pace.

Before becoming a comedian, Gary had had a career in the military and he believes that the resilience he picked up whilst in the army is what helped him get through this crisis. That, and networking.

Gary has a huge following on social media and word got out pretty quickly about his plight. His friend, the musician Mark McCarthy, whose career had taken a similar nose-dive thanks to COVID, suggested he join him and re-train as a gas engineer. Gary’s savings had gone, he’d hit rock-bottom and didn’t have the money to pay for a training course. He’d been offered a four year electrical apprenticeship, but at the age of 32 and with kids to support an apprentice’s wage, sadly wasn’t going to cut it.

And then there’s hope

That’s when Jacqui Wilkie, office manager at Energy Technical Academy in Glasgow, told her Director, Tommy Smith, about Gary’s situation and he decided to offer the one spare place on the Managed Learning Programme (MLP) they were about to start, to Gary – free of charge.

Since then Gary’s not looked back. He’s absolutely delighted to be learning a useful skill that will ensure he’s got work for life. He has completed the first part of the year-long course and is working for JDS Plumbing and Gas Services in Glasgow, to gain the experience he needs to complete the portfolio part of his MLP. He feels he’s  learning so much, splitting his time between work and the Academy – and his confidence is growing day by day.

Gary said:

“It’s been an incredible year. I can’t believe the opportunity I’ve been given and I’m so grateful to Tommy and Energy Technical Academy for setting me back on my feet. My tutor, Garry Thompson is amazing and everyone here is so kind. I sometimes need extra help with the technical stuff and they’re always on hand to give me support. They’ve set me up with a great work placement and I’m learning so much every day.

“Honestly, before I did this I literally couldn’t change a light bulb and it’s amazing to see how far I have come.

“Being a gas engineer is brilliant. Every job is different and it’s great to be working with my hands.  My plans for the future have changed massively. Before all this happened my dream was to buy a yacht. Now it’s to buy a van and fill it with tools!”

And what about the comedy?

“I’m planning a smaller comedy tour next year, rescheduling some of the dates from 2020. I’ll work as an engineer during the week and save Friday and Saturday nights for gigs.

“I’m really keen to spread the word. There are lots of people like me out there whose careers have bombed – and loads that have been made redundant. I’d encourage them –and all my army mates who are coming out of the military – to train in the trades. Next year, I’m planning to take an electrical course.”

Gary has the last laugh

Tommy Smith is just as thrilled. The training academy he set up with his colleagues a couple of years ago has never been busier.

“Focusing on our learners is our mission. We do all we can to give them as much practical experience as possible. We research the best businesses for their work placements – matching them with companies who are actually looking for employees. All but one of our candidates who’ve been through the MLP in the last couple of years has walked straight into a job.

“LCL Awards are great in keeping us on our toes. They are very strict on compliance and their standards are high. Ours are too, so it’s a good match.

They are very approachable and switched-on. Far more so than other certification bodies I’ve worked with in the past. They provide us with excellent back room support and help us get out learners trained and set up for work with their accreditation in as timely a manner as possible.

“We are really pleased that Gary has seized the opportunity we were able to offer him. It’s been great to see his skills and confidence grow. The free placement scheme has worked incredibly well so we’re planning to offer another candidate in need a similar chance every year from now on. I’ve no doubt Gary will succeed in getting a good job – as well that new van he wants!”

To find out more about Energy Technical Academy, click here.

To find out about LCL Awards' Managed Learning Programme (MLP), click here.