This week (8-14 February) is National Apprenticeship Week. It’s a good time to celebrate the Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Technician apprenticeship, which is supported by IOSH (acting as secretariat), developed by a ‘Trailblazer’ group of employers and approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education.
IOSH is giving free student membership to the first 300 SHE apprentices who sign up to join the Institution, the global professional body for safety and health. Ethan Mahoney-Roberts (23), from Liverpool, was one of the first to take up this offer. Ethan has since progressed to IOSH Technical membership and been promoted from apprentice to a more senior health and safety role. We asked Ethan (slightly cautiously since he has a black belt in Taekwondo as well as a passion for health and safety) what his SHE Technician apprenticeship has given him…
My first jobs were in warehousing and logistics but I quickly developed a fascination for health and safety. I could see its strong operational focus but I also saw how much it was about driving a safe, positive culture in the workplace and I wanted to be part of that. So I applied for the role of Safety, Health and Environment Apprentice with facilities maintenance company Integral, part of the JLL group, in Warrington.
I remember telling my cousin, who works on a nuclear site, how thrilled I was to get the role and to launch my career in health and safety. He thought he’d bring me down to earth by telling me that, working in the health and safety team, I might not be the most popular person on site! But I wasn’t fazed because I believed that with the right training and experience I could change people’s attitudes and get them to see health and safety as a helpful, as well as essential part of any business or organisation.
I was pretty good at maths and science at school and left college with a BTEC in Applied Science. So I was keen to get on the apprenticeship, get some experience and study for the Safety, Health and Environmental Technician Level 3 qualification. My writing is much better now than it was then but being good at sports (I played rugby, as well as soccer, basketball and a bit of cricket) I was a strong team player and used to being around people.
Completing the apprenticeship saw me write 10 assignments, as well as spending a lot of time learning on and off the job, visiting engineers and operations managers, going on site tours and so on. I did a lot of my assignment work on the train, travelling to and from our sites.
But I find this very rewarding, finding out more about those you meet in the workplace, what they’re trying to achieve and if there’s a problem, or something needs improving, to look at it together and see what can be done. I’ve learned that it’s not enough just to be the health and safety ‘police officer’ – you have to be understanding, to constantly learn from people and show that you want to work with them, not against them in any way.
The more you talk to people the more they understand what you’re trying to do and why. Building positive relationships gives you a chance to prove to others that as the health and safety guy you’re not there just to rain on their parade, that you want to help and support them. My apprenticeship experience has really opened my eyes in this regard and I’ve had some really good role models to learn from, OSH professionals who’ve been applying their skills and expertise, in all sorts of environments, sometimes for longer than I’ve been alive!
With the free IOSH student membership that came with taking the SHE Technician apprenticeship, complete with its access to the IOSH Career Hub and its wealth of training and networking opportunities, plus membership of the Future Leaders Community, I’ve found an even greater pool of learning and support to drawn on. It all convinced me to progress my IOSH membership and become a Technical member.
Proving people wrong has always been my way of achieving things and, I’m delighted to say, this now includes my cousin.
Ethan Mahoney-Roberts – Tech IOSH
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