Iain Bell was an apprentice when he joined the industry, 31 years later he is now an Operations Manager. Find out how after all these years, his skills and knowledge from his apprenticeship continue to help him and the perks of being an Operations Manager for British Gas in London.
Iain Bell, Operations Manager, British Gas
What do you do?
I am an Operations Manager at British Gas, heading Central London’s patch of 140 home service engineers.
What’s significant about your role?
Among the many significant aspects to my role, I lead a unique team of five lamplighters who are responsible for lighting London’s 1,500 traditional gas lamps every evening. Yes, every evening! The gas lamps are protected by English Heritage and can be found in palaces, parks and historic sites. They definitely give London that special touch.
Tell us about your journey…
I was 17 when I began my apprenticeship in Glasgow. I developed my engineering skills and became a fully-qualified home service engineer three years later. Forward to 2000, I was selected to work in British Gas’ first ever technical helpdesk in Stockport and two years later became the manager of the team. The management experience really helped me with more senior positions - it’s been 31 years since I began my apprenticeship and now I’ve been in my current role since 2006.
For me, going down the apprenticeship route has always been the right decision. It is a unique opportunity to learn about a role, and a business, in a really immense way.
Was choosing the apprenticeship route the right decision?
For me, going down the apprenticeship route has always been the right decision. Although I was accepted at my local college and already had job offers, the British Gas apprenticeship scheme gave me better options. It is a unique opportunity to learn about a role, and a business, in a really immense way.
Apart from the skills you gained, were there any other things your apprenticeship taught you?
One of the first things my apprenticeship taught me was how to talk to people, which helped to improve my confidence and communication skills. As a service engineer you’re welcomed into customers’ houses and expected to fix things quickly, but you also need to know how to manage difficult situations. I definitely couldn’t have learnt both skills at the same time through a college course.
Apprenticeships are very close to your heart?
My career progression is due to the skills I learnt during my apprenticeship and I am now involved in recruiting new apprentices at British Gas. With the hands-on experience it offers and the earning potential from day one, I’d encourage people exploring a new career to consider it equally against the option of university.
I understand your job allows you to mingle with film makers?
Definitely one of the greater perks to my job. The gas lamps my team and I light every day are a major attraction for not only tourists but film makers too. I recently had the privilege to work as a consultant on the set of Mary Poppins 2, helping producers use the gas lamps to create the perfect setting.