Having achieved Fellowship in his 30s, Richard Hines is proof that age is no barrier to reaching our highest category of membership. Nor do you need to have taken the university route into engineering; Richard entered the profession as an apprentice and acquired experience that counts as he progressed in his career.
Richard currently works as a HM Principal Specialist Inspector at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the national independent regulator for work-related health, safety and illness. They act in public interest to reduce work-related death and serious injury across Great Britain’s workplaces.
An expert in electrical and control system engineering, Richard provides front line support to regulatory colleagues operating across a wide range of sectors including construction, utilities, agriculture and general manufacturing.
He liaises with these colleagues in planned interventions and in response to serious incidents, where a worker or member of the public has been seriously injured or killed. Often his work will take him into court, where he’ll act as an expert witness.
He’s not alone in these activities, as he explains: “I lead and work as part of a close-knit team of Chartered Electrical Engineers, who provide answers to difficult questions to understand why things went wrong and what can be done to prevent a recurrence.”
Richard has reached his current role and IET Fellowship through accumulating experience in electrical and control engineering. He can trace back his interest in electricity as early as childhood: “I grew up near to a big electricity substation and I was always fascinated by how electricity was generated and distributed.”
Upon finishing school, he secured a role as an Apprentice Electrical Technician at British Sugar, the company behind Silverspoon Sugar. After completing a four year apprenticeship, he was sponsored to complete a degree, and meanwhile progressed through the company, taking on roles with increasing responsibilities before joining HSE around 10 years ago.
In parallel with his career, Richard has contributed to engineering through volunteering at the IET as a Professional Registration Advisor, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Advisor and member of the Registration and Standards Committee.
For Richard, Fellowship seemed within reach when he moved to HSE: “There have been a number of Fellows at HSE for all the time I’ve been working here. My line manager is a Chartered and a Fellow, and she was very keen for me to show that I was working at that level. I’ve been very fortunate to have the support of HSE and my colleagues behind me.”
Richard too was keen to gain the recognition associated with Fellowship, which bolsters his reputation as an expert witness in court and internally as a manager of a team. He also acknowledges that as a Fellow “you can tap into a whole network of Fellows and become involved in different committees and activities.”
Before applying for Fellowship, he did however have some reservations.
“I told myself that I was going to have to spend a lot of time completing forms,” he says. “But in actual fact, there was one form for me to complete, providing the usual background information and two summaries on how I met the criteria for Fellowship. This, along with two supporter forms, could be completed and submitted electronically. The process was much easier than I thought it would be.”
Another concern for Richard was his age: “I thought I was probably too young. Ultimately though, it’s not about age, it’s about the experience you’ve got and the examples you can present to the panel.”
Thrilled that his doubts proved groundless, Richard is keen to share his success in the hope that people who’ve shied away from Fellowship might consider it.
“To be a Fellow under 40 and get that recognition is one of the highlights of my career,” he says. “My experience shows it definitely can be done earlier in your career.”
Find out more about becoming an IET Fellow at http://www.theiet.org/fellows