WORK EXPERIENCE: Argus reporter is British Gas engineer

South Wales Argus: Argus reporter Keiligh Baker joins British Gas Boiler Engineer Kirsty Williams for some work experience.  Pictured is Kirsty next to a boiler unit she is servicing. (5849886) Argus reporter Keiligh Baker joins British Gas Boiler Engineer Kirsty Williams for some work experience. Pictured is Kirsty next to a boiler unit she is servicing. (5849886)

I’M SURE there are plenty of little girls who dream of being engineers, but I was never one of them.

But when I was offered the opportunity to shadow one of Gwent’s few female central heating engineers, I jumped at the chance.

Kirsty Williams, 22, from Blackwood, applied for the British Gas apprenticeship scheme after leaving school. She had decided university or college was not for her, and her dad, who works at British Gas, told her about the apprenticeship.

She applied, but – with a competitive 50 applications for every place on the course – she did not get in until her second attempt.

Now, having completed the 18 month apprenticeship and training scheme, she has been a service and repair engineer with British Gas for four years.

I met Kirsty and her manager, Bryan Davies, 50, from Pontypool, at their usual meeting spot at the Islwyn Indoor Bowls Centre in Pontllanfraith on a drizzly Tuesday morning.

Bryan, Kirsty, and the rest of the team meet there regularly so Bryan can check on their progress and give his staff updates and a brief if there have been any changes in gas regulations.

We had a quick cup of coffee while Kirsty and Bryan told me some of the vital statistics that go with the job, including the fact that in east Wales there are 120 engineers and 22 members in the central and east Wales team.

Then, it was time to go to my first appointment.

I hopped into Kirsty’s scrupulously clean British Gas van wearing Bryan’s equally spotless hi-vis padded jacket.

Before we set off Kirsty explained the purpose of the heavy laptop she had been carrying – it was built like a brick with grey reinforced edges and screen.

She explained each service and repair engineer has one of these, a Panasonic Toughbook, which is built to endure all weather conditions – although luckily, she added, service and repair engineers don’t have to work outside too often.

Kirsty said it functions like a diary, it is built with specialist software which lets the head office in Stockport send each engineer their jobs for the day as and when they come through.

The system allows the engineer to keep head office updated on their progress from saying they are on their way to the job, have arrived and at the end have completed and filled out safety questions with the customer.

She said: “There’s a few call centres throughout the country. Their job is that they speak to the customer, find out if its general maintenance or a repair needed, and create a job and send the jobs to Stockport.

“Once the job request has arrived in Stockport, they assign the jobs to whichever engineers are in the area.

“It has other really useful functions too.”

The computer also boasts Adapt software which stores information on pretty much every boiler in existence, which the engineers find invaluable.

On a job, the service and repair engineers will look at the serial number on the boiler they are fixing, pop it into the system and find out its specifications; whether it has any known faults or problems; common issues and if the manufacturer has give any updated issues on is maintenance and repair.

Kirsty explained that as soon as she receives a job, she will ring the customer and let them know how long she will be before she arrives.

“You’ve got to give them warning, it’s their home and you’re entering their space,” Kirsty said.

“On arrival the fist thing we do is we go and introduce ourselves to the customer, leaving the tools in the car. We ask them to show us where the central heating and boiler is located, and then ask them to keep away from the area while we are working to avoid any slips or accidents – it’s health and safety.

“If it’s a big job you have to let the customer know and let them know which rooms you will be going into – you have to respect their privacy as well and you have to make them feel comfortable, as that puts them at ease.”

Kirsty opened up the back of the van and pulled out a massive and heavy tool box which dwarfed her petite 4’11’’ frame. It was so heavy I could barely pick it up, but Kirsty hefted it around with ease, carrying it up the steep drive to the house.

After greeting the homeowner, Kirsty was shown the boiler and proceeded to show me how to maintain it.

First of all, she showed me the large sheet which every repair and maintenance engineer carries with them.

Kirsty explained: “We put it down even when there’s no visible water damage because you don’t want to run the risk of ruining the customer’s nice carpet. It’s just a precaution really, but you want to protect it from any accidental spills.”

She opened the cupboard which houses the boiler and showed me how every time she checks a boiler, she looks for stray voltage with a special electric voltage pen, which lights up if it senses electricity, before touching the boiler itself to prevent potential electric shocks.

She then checks the appliance has been isolated from the mains before checking for any signs of water leaks or heat damage.

She uses a flue gas analyser which is used to check it is running at optimum efficiency and running costs by testing the emissions of the boiler, giving readings and identifying any above average carbon monoxide levels.

She then checks the serial code of the boiler and runs it through the computer which will highlight any issues or problems the particular make or model may have.

Kirsty said: “As a service and repair engineer, our main role is maintenance and ensuring the appliance is running properly.

“You see all sorts of different issues in this job, but one of the messier ones is when there’s a leak and it goes through the ceiling.”

Last of all, she turns the heating and a hot water tap on to check it’s working.

We then went downstairs to check all the radiators were working before going through the paperwork questions with the customer, and providing efficiency advice.

Fortunately, the boiler we were maintaining passed its yearly service with flying colours.

l The British Gas Academy in Tredegar is one of six British Gas academies based across the UK.

Officially opened in May 2010, it delivers engineer up-skilling, smart meter training and a host of renewable technology and energy efficiency training.

British Gas has (to date) trained more than 130 apprentices at the academy in Tredegar with around 1,000 apprentices on training programmes across the UK.

In 2013, British Gas invested £13 million in its training academies and apprentices.

For more information visit britishgasjobs.co.uk / follow @britishgasjobs on Twitter.

The British Gas Academy in Tredegar is one of six British Gas academies based across the UK.

Officially opened in May 2010, it delivers engineer up-skilling, smart meter training and a host of renewable technology and energy efficiency training.

British Gas has (to date) trained more than 130 apprentices at the British Gas Academy in Tredegar.

British Gas currently has around 1,000 apprentices enrolled on training programmes across the UK.

In 2013, British Gas invested £13m in its training academies and apprentices.

For more information on apprenticeships, visit www.britishgasjobs.co.uk / follow @britishgasjobs on Twitter.

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