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Colin Barden

Now in high-level management, Colin began life as an apprentice and worked his way up the career ladder as a technician, then engineer. He believes achieving EngTech played a huge role in getting him to where he is today.

Colin Barden

 

 “For me EngTech is the stepping stone from craftsman to engineer. It's a good indicator of calibre.”

 

 

Introduction

Now in high-level management, Colin began life as an apprentice and worked his way up the career ladder as a technician, then engineer. He believes achieving EngTech played a huge role in getting him to where he is today.

Colin Barden EngTech FIET MBE is Head of Network Operations for UK Power Networks. Heading up a team of approximately 800 staff and 800 contractors, his job is simply “to keep the lights on” and he’s responsible for all the company’s operational activities.

He’s achieved many things throughout his career, but aside from his move from craftsman to engineer through the achievement of Engineering Technician (EngTech) registration, he is most proud of receiving an MBE for services to the electricity industry.

This was awarded for Colin’s work in restoring power to hundreds of thousands of homes after storms hit one Christmas Eve. He took a team out to North Wales and the Midlands on Christmas day to restore supply as quickly as possible so that both the customers and his team could enjoy their Christmas break.

However, the letter came completely out the blue and at first Colin thought it was actually a joke.

“I thought it was a wind up,” says Colin, ”but fortunately I did reply!”

From apprentice to running UK network operations Colin began working life as a humble apprentice at what was then known as Seeboard.

“I went to secondary school but around that time, 1980, there weren’t many people that went on to university education. We were pretty much channelled towards apprenticeships,” he explains. “I lived in the Medway area which was heavily industrial at the time so there were lots of apprenticeship opportunities. I was particularly interested in electricity, so Seeboard was high on my list.

“It just appealed to me to be honest,” Colin continues. “I liked working with my hands, fixing and building things, and from what I’d heard it looked like a good trade to get involved in.”

At the time Colin didn’t have high aspirations, he felt his career path was mapped out and that he could aim for a supervisory role at best.

“In those days you became an apprentice and pretty much had a career path as a craftsman to follow. If you were lucky you would probably end up at a foreman-type supervisory role,” he says. “I’ve gotta be honest, the job I have now - if you’d said to me then that one day I’d be doing this I wouldn’t have believed you!”

EngTech - the bridge to further career progression

Colin believes that progressing to technician level and achieving EngTech was a hugely important part of his career, a landmark achievement that saw him to move into an engineer’s role, where he was able to advance up the career ladder into management.

The opportunity arose when privatisation came to the electricity industry. More opportunities appeared as companies were looking to give craftsmen the opportunity to take on further education and move into more engineering focused roles. Colin undertook his ONC and HNC and was fortunate enough to move from up from a craftsman to engineer position.

“This was a stepping stone that opened the world up in some respects,” he says. “As an engineer you literally have the opportunity to go to the top in this sector,” he explains. “Lots of senior managers and directors are all professional engineers. Once you’ve made that step up from craftsman the world becomes your oyster!”

It was when he took on this role that Colin became professionally registered as an Engineering Technician (EngTech) and he felt that this professional recognition was hugely important to his career.

“For me EngTech is the stepping stone from craftsman to engineer. It's a good indicator of calibre,” Colin enthuses.

“The higher up the ladder I go the more I realise how important it is,” he says. “It gives you an immediate understanding of somebody’s capability, their understanding of their particular engineering responsibilities. It is certainly an important aspect of career progression. Professional registration gives employers the ability to see who has not only academic ability/knowledge, but has also demonstrated their understanding and practical use of it.

Could you be EngTech ready?

“In reality there are many people out there who have the necessary qualifications and experience to be EngTech but don’t realise it,” Colin continues. “Craftsmen are taking on more and more engineering responsibilities which would qualify them. Many are looking to progress in the future so it’s a great indicator of their calibre and obtaining EngTech shows they’ve gone above and beyond.”

Colin is keen to encourage people to join a professional institution like the IET and get professionally registered.

“It’s not just the personal career benefits professional registration gives you - for example if I interview two people and one is a member and professionally registered and the other isn’t, in my mind I’m already looking at the person who’s demonstrated what they’ve achieved.

“There’s also benefits to simply being a member, as there’s a massive range of knowledge and experience to hand. The people you meet, the courses you can go on, the books it produces - anything you need to find out about simply talk to the IET and you’ll find the answer!”