Supporting communities in Bristol

Posted on: 28/03/2021

Our engineers responded quickly to keep a school in Bristol safe after a gas leak.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been focussed on keeping communities safe and warm, looking after those most in need, and making sure our apprentices continue learning.

Richard Sperring

Richard Sperring is part of the team working to keep Bristol’s gas flowing safely and reliably: one of the many gas engineers who have been key workers throughout the pandemic.

Richard explains the importance of his work:

“I look after the pipes that keep the gas flowing across the city. During the pandemic our work hasn’t stopped, and we’ve worked solely with one thing in mind: delivering a safe and reliable supply of gas to keep people safe and warm in their own homes and communities safe.

“Just last month we were called to St. Werburgh’s, to the north of the city, after being alerted to the potential smell of gas. When we were investigating, we found a leak on the gas pipes feeding the local primary school.

“We told the school about the situation and that we needed to work to fix the leak to allow the school to open, as normal, the next morning. As you can imagine there was some concern at the school, which was a hub for children of other key workers.

“We fixed the leak, and the gas supply was up and running by the next morning, so that parents and pupils weren’t disrupted. The joy in the caretaker’s voice when we told him it was all ok made me feel exceptionally proud of the small role we have played in supporting our communities at such a challenging time.”

Ceri Noel

Ceri Noel, an Administrative Assistant, has been working throughout the pandemic but quickly adapted to homeworking after the initial lockdown in March was announced.

Ceri, who usually works out of our Bristol depot, explains:

“My job involves logging all of the work that is done in the workshop. Our engineers have a lot of tools which need recalibrating and servicing frequently, so my job is to make sure all of this information is logged onto our systems.

“In the weeks leading up to the formal lockdown I had gradually been spending less time in the office, and more time working at home. We fully switched to home working on 23 March – I can’t believe we’ve been working in this way for a year.

“I had everything I needed, and our systems allow us to work from anywhere so there was a seamless transition. The only thing that changed was the way in which I get the paperwork – this used to be put on my desk but now I get this delivered frequently by someone who also lives nearby.

“I’ve been juggling home schooling with work, but now the children have gone back, things are definitely a lot easier.

“I really miss being in the depot and I can’t wait until the time that things return.

“It’s been a really challenging time, but I’m grateful that I work for a company like Wales & West Utilities, who responded so quickly to the pandemic and have focussed on keeping their colleagues safe – whether they are working in the office, at home, or out on the network.”

Joshua Baker

Our apprentices were mid-way through their theory and practical learning when the Coronavirus pandemic resulted in the UK-wide lockdown in March.  With apprentice training usually split between college or our own training academies in Treforest and Bridgwater and practical experience as a gas engineer, learning swiftly moved online.

Clevedon’s Joshua Baker, 19, was nearing the end of the second year of his apprenticeship; learning how to maintain the control systems of the gas network, when lockdown happened.

He explains:

“Before Covid I would spend one day a week at college and four days working on site. When lockdown was announced all physical training was paused and online learning set up.

“Within a few weeks we had got to grips with the new way of learning, with tutors giving live lessons and us completing work virtually.

“I am missing the face-to-face contact and benefits in-classroom learning brings, it has shown that you can also complete a vocational apprenticeship away from college.

“I am glad that everything moved quickly to ensure that we didn’t miss out on weeks and months of learning. This new way of working has also made that we have been kept occupied, whilst also achieving our full potential.

“When I’d started out as an apprentice, never did I think I’d be learning at home for the best part of a year but I’m looking forward to building on what I’ve learned in the last year and taking the next step in my career.”

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