Supporting communities in Cornwall

Posted on: 24/03/2021

From Plymouth to Penzance, throughout Coronavirus we’ve been working round the clock to keep the gas flowing safely, while developing the next generation of gas engineers

Meet some of our team in Cornwall...

Lynette Gould

Lynette Gould, an Operational Assistant, has been working throughout the pandemic but quickly adapted to homeworking after the initial lockdown in March 2020 was announced.

Lynette, who usually works out of our Redruth depot, explains:

“My job involves looking after all the noticing across Cornwall, working in partnership with the local authority to make sure we have the right permissions to allow us to work in the road: upgrading the gas network, making new connections and carrying out gas emergency work. I also support the team who work out of the depot, making sure they have all the supplies and equipment to look after the gas network.

“When lockdown happened, we immediately switched from office to home working. I packed up my laptop, my files and took my office chair as I had a feeling we were in this for the long haul.  Our systems allow us to work from anywhere, so I set about turning my spare room into an office and got to work.

“Working from home hasn’t affected the way I do my job and it’s shown that it can be done but I am really missing the buzz of the office and the benefits of those face-to-face relationships with colleagues.

“Everybody is different, but I’m really looking forward to getting back to the office – there’s no substitute for seeing people in person.”

Tommy-Lee Southworth 

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 colleagues in our own training academies in Treforest and Bridgwater and practical experience as a gas engineer, learning swiftly moved online.

Working with training provider, Utilise, the Wales & West Utilities Learning & Development team developed online training through Microsoft Teams to create a virtual classroom for all apprentices. Due to the innovative and versatile manner in which Teams can be used, instructors were able to share videos, podcasts and presentations, as well as setting tasks for apprentices to complete and upload during the lesson.

Despite initial reservations, the reaction from those taking part in the programme has been positive.

Tommy-Lee Southworth from Cambourne is 24 and a third-year apprentice, learning the skills needed to look after the pipes that keep the gas flowing to homes and businesses.

Prior to lockdown he spent three-week blocks working from the Redruth depot and the company’s training facility in Treforest, south Wales. He said:

“When lockdown was announced Wales & West Utilities were quick to get things in place to make sure that our training continued seamlessly. We all had access to laptops and our learning schedule swiftly moved online.

“We quickly got to grips with the new way of learning and were still able to work virtually with the other apprentices in our groups.

“The trainers have been great in providing supplementary handouts, whilst they can also control our screens so that we are able to see exactly what is happening – which means it’s similar to the classroom environment.

“It hasn’t always been easy but I’m so glad that we had this opportunity. It’s helped me continue my apprenticeship and has been a good way to keep occupied in Lockdown!

“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 it’s still been fun – and I’m looking forward to taking the next step in my career.”

Neva Anderson

Neva Anderson is one of the many gas engineers who have been key workers throughout the pandemic. Neva, from Truro, is part of the team working to look after the pipes that keep the gas flowing to heat and power Cornwall’s homes and businesses.

Neva, 21, finished her apprenticeship at the same time as the first lockdown in March 2020, and became fully qualified. She has since been working as a team leader, maintaining and upgrading the gas network across Cornwall.

She explains the importance of her work:

“As an engineer I work to respond to call outs about potential gas leaks on the gas pipes and equipment across the Cornwall network, which could be anywhere from Plymouth to Penzance.

“Throughout the pandemic our work hasn’t stopped and hasn’t really changed. We’ve been focussed on keeping the gas flowing safely and reliably to homes, businesses and essential infrastructure like hospitals.”

Neva enjoys her job but working through a pandemic has meant she’s more grateful to be in a role that she loves.

“Having become qualified and able to go out on my own, responding to jobs across the area, has been great. It’s given me a tremendous sense of purpose.

“To be able to go to work, in the normal way as a key worker, has occupied my mind, whilst also giving me a great sense of pride in keeping my local community safe at such a challenging time.”