Colin Copeland

Colin’s story

My dad had a big impact on how my working life started and it turns out his faith and direction were right!

It began with him telling me what I wasn’t going to do (!) – which was to work in the mines – the biggest employer in the area. I did pass the pit exams, considered other options including apprenticeships with British Steel and ICI on Teesside, but the daily distance from home and a long family history of success in the forces, (regimental sergeant majors, bomb disposal experts to name but two) meant it was probably more likely than not that a forces career would be my starting point.

I followed my dad into the navy wanting to be a stoker and instead, at my dad’s insistence, went in as an artificer apprentice which with hindsight was the right career choice for me. I completed my basic training in Plymouth and found I loved the training and the naval sporting life and got heavily involved in both. I spent time at a number of shore bases (training establishments) including HMS Fisgard (Plymouth), HMS Caledonia (Rosyth), HMS Sultan and Collingwood (Portsmouth) and 5 years at sea on HMS Broadsword, and progressed very quickly through the ranks. I also learnt a huge amount of life skills that have stayed with me throughout my working career, not least problem solving, the ability to develop productive relationships so that people will work with you and the importance of self-reliance and self-belief.

I was Chief Petty Officer by the age of twenty-four and then went on to be a Shipwright, not only because it gave me more skills, but because it meant I wouldn’t be assigned to submarine duty – something I’d previously signed up for, but now didn’t relish.

I spent around ten and a half years in the navy. When I left I gave myself the safety net of six months, so that if civilian life and jobs didn’t work out for me, I would go back in.

I subsequently spent a very frustrating five months applying for and being rejected from jobs. I ended up working long hours in the docks for little thanks and was on the verge of going back into the forces when I met a former colleague and ended up going offshore and starting the first of my jobs in the energy industry.

I’ve gone on to build up extensive experience, knowledge and connections working in refineries, power stations, wind farms and pipelines. I’ve held roles in maintenance, projects, quality operations, safety and construction and worked on new-build projects and re-starts, as site and regional manager.

Since rejoining px Group I’ve held the roles of O&M Project Manager and Design Office Manager and now I’m on secondment as the Site Construction Manager on the MGT project on Teesside – the world’s largest new build biomass combined heat and power (CHP) station. Px Group is the owner’s engineer and is providing project management services in connection with the plant’s construction and commissioning.

For anyone about to leave the forces, or who have left and are wondering about other options, I’d say you need to have an understanding about what you enjoy doing. It doesn’t have to be specific because if you’d told me that I’d end up doing some of the jobs I have and that I’d be where I am today, I’d have laughed, but to have an idea of your next step.

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