Since joining Electrical Testing Ltd. 3 years ago, Fane Morton has been on a path of progression, gaining skills and qualifications that are helping him climb the rungs of the engineering career ladder. Fane tells us what it takes to be an electrical apprentice engineer at ETL.
Why do you want to be an engineer?
I did Maths, Business Studies and I.T. at A Level, but didn’t really have a work path mapped out for after my studies. I had considered accountancy but then I heard about an opportunity with ETL through my Dad – having a recommendation from someone you trust and who has knowledge of the company gives you more confidence. So I went to talk with them and quickly became interested. I particularly liked the prospect of travelling across the UK, and the fact that there were opportunities to grow and work my way up through the company.
Tell us a little about your career path so far with ETL.
I started with ETL just over 3 years ago. For the first couple of days, I worked in the office, getting trained up on the systems they use and going through the health and safety course. But by the third day, I was out in the field with a Senior Supervisor, who gave me practical guidance on the structural testing of street furniture – testing them so that we could estimate what lifetime they had left. It was great being able to get out so quickly and to learn, in a practical way, the skills I needed for the job.
In August last year, I was given further HESA training – on the Electrical side – which was done both in-office with ETL and onsite with a Senior Supervisor. The company was really proactive about my growth as they approached me to go for my IPAF certificate. It’s really important that a company gives you the opportunity to develop and work your way up. It makes it much more interesting when you know there are different opportunities ahead of you. It offers a sense of security too, which is one of the main reasons why working with ETL appealed in the first place.
So, I was booked on the IPAF course and I passed. I was then able to progress to be able to operate a Cherry Picker or MEWP (Mobile Elevating Work Platforms). I suppose you need a good head for heights for this role; if a lighting column passes its initial test at ground level, you then have to check it from high level too – which means elevating yourself up to the top in a harness and bucket/basket.
What skills do you need to be effective in this role?
In terms of professional qualifications for this job, you need to have passed your IPAF, and complete training in electrical inspection/testing and safe isolation procedures. ETL provides the opportunity to achieve these.
Now that I have gained these qualifications I am now able to carry out periodic electrical testing to street furniture and carry out any electrical defect repairs to street furniture which is currently electrically unsafe/doesn’t meet regulations.
I also just earned my NVQ Level 2 – Highway Electrical Systems and will probably look to see about moving onto Level 3 now. I’ve had a real sense of achievement earning these qualifications. When I was doing my A Levels, I never thought I’d be in this position at all!
You also need other skills though. Being an electrical engineer is a one-man job really. You’re responsible for planning your day, setting up the area, carrying out the checks and reporting back. So you have to be able to work on your own initiative and be comfortable making decisions.
And because there is flexibility in how you plan your day, you have to be good at time management too, so you definitely need to be organised. Because you’re working on your own a lot of the time – I can be away for 9 straight days in Aberdeen at the moment – it’s important that you’re also self-motivated.
Coming into the job with I.T. skills isn’t essential but you do need to learn how to use the systems as uploading data and results onto the computer is important for the whole team – but it’s something that ETL trains you in. If there are any problems, there’s always support back in the office, so it’s good to be able to communicate too.
But I think the most important skill of all is having a good attitude.
Can you walk us through a typical day?
Because I get to plan my own day, I’ll often start around 8am and work through till early evening. The flexibility means I can put in additional hours or work more days in one block, giving me the chance to take a longer ‘weekend’ at the end of it. I get a road list with my individual tasks at the start of the week so this helps me plan which areas I’m going to cover and in what order daily. Once that’s decided, I’ll go to the area, set it up – make sure it’s safely coned off, and get to work. I’m pretty organised and usually take my lunch with me so I’ll eat it on site or in the van before I get back to work again.
Because you’re moving around, no one day is really the same, which I enjoy. I’m working in Aberdeen at the moment, so I need to be prepared for all weathers – I keep my different ETL jackets etc. in the van just in case! Bad weather can affect the equipment too so you’ve got to make sure you’re prepared enough to keep it dry. If something does happen though, there’s support at the end of the phone.
I don’t have much interaction with others during the day but I know that if I need to report a dangerous lighting column to a supervisor for example, I can call the office and someone will be there to help. It’s a really supportive team.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really enjoy being able to work across different parts of the UK. I’ve been able to see new places that I probably wouldn’t have visited if I had taken another job. I might get some great shots to put on Instagram too to show my friends and family where I am. I also like working outdoors – which was a surprise to me. It’s a really tranquil environment and I enjoy that. Being independent and picking my own hours is a bonus too.
What do you enjoy most about working at ETL?
I love the people in the office – they’re always really helpful. The flexibility in choosing your own hours gives a real sense of independence and trust. And the option for growth is important. Knowing that there’s opportunities to grow or learn a new skill keeps it interesting. I still have options to progress and there’s things I’d definitely like to try – like cable – tracing. And there are other courses available that I could do to keep developing myself and moving on to other aspects in the company.
In what area do you think you’ve progressed the most?
Even though I’m currently operating a Cherry Picker I feel that the main way my skills have progressed is via the electrical training/electrical work which I am now able to do for ETL. Even though I’m currently not doing electrical work, it is something I have done and will no doubt be moved back onto in the near future.
What advice would you give to others who are looking to kick-start their career in engineering?
Don’t be put off by your lack of experience or qualifications. I never thought about a career in engineering – I had no experience at all – but ETL are changing that. They have given me lots of help and opportunities which have enabled me to get where I am now.
There’s a lot of misperceptions around engineering, I think. Maybe some think it’s only something you can do if you take the University route. But University isn’t for everyone. Coming into a role like this, the way I did, is a great way to earn the qualifications towards becoming an engineer and earn money at the same time.