When Welwyn Garden city recently gathered for its recently Christmas light switch on there was only one man for the job – the towns very own TV star Billy Byrne, the nations favourite ‘sparky’ on BBC hit show DIYSOS.
Whilst in town for the big switch-on the reality show star chatted to Oaklands about his rising career, from a fresh-faced apprentice in the electrical trade, to the heights of meeting royalty on the job and now coming back to his hometown to light up the local community.
With a prime time slot on evening television, hoards of fans up and down the country, Billy remains clear about what makes the show work. He says: “It’s simple. We just use the skills we trained in. Sparks, Chippies, Painters, and Plasters – we all pull together to use our trades to change people’s lives. Trade work will never die – it just goes to show those skills we train for in education such as College can really make a difference.”
The BBC star, from hit reality series DIYSOS is on the team who tour the country using trades and interior design skills to transform the homes of families in need. The DIYSOS team pull on helping hands from the local community they visit to literally transform homes unrecognisably from top to bottom in just a matter of days.
After being lucky enough to secure a six year apprenticeship as an electrician after school, Billy came back into trade full time almost 10 years later whilst joining the BBC as a lighting technician on set, building on different skills to his background as an industrial and commercial electrician.
He says the skills learnt on his apprenticeship are the very same he uses daily on the show and once the course was complete back in 1965, he knew he had a career to rely on. He said: “I came back onto the tools later in the 80s in a time when computers and IT were booming. But practical trade skills on the job can never be replaced by technology and I knew there would always be work as an electrician.”
He adds: “Once you’re on the tools you’ve got it for life, no matter what life throws at you. People will always need hands-on help in building and designing homes and businesses. I’m passionate about apprenticeships because that real-life experience I got from the word go made all the difference. They are a great thing, especially for anyone working in the trade and I’m thrilled to see so many young people now choosing an apprenticeship as a route to work.”
Looking back now on a career that has seen Billy part of a team helping endless deserving families, world war veterans, and also working with next generation royals Princes William and Harry, Billy says the friends he made back on that apprenticeship formed a social network of friends for life, both personally and also for business. He regularly meets with his apprenticeship mates locally, calling on them to lend a hand this summer as the hit show came to film a project based right back in his hometown.
“I was nervous doing a project here in Welwyn Garden City – what if no one showed up? But we had over 160 people in the community on the first day helping – that’s the most we’ve ever had on the show. I was thrilled!”
When asked if there was one piece of advice to share with anyone studying at the moment, Billy says to value everything you can, as young as you can. “If you do get an apprenticeship – treasure it and work hard.
“The more you put in at a younger age, the more you’ll get out of it in later life. Don’t fret about what you get paid, the hours or the people, just grab every bit of experience you can because in this industry those initial years are never forgotten.”