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Take your career to new heights as a Blade Technician
Visualising your dream career is easy but achieving that dream can seem impossible and it takes guts to make it happen. However, making that change could have a huge impact on your wellbeing. According to the REC Future of Jobs report, 80% of people surveyed said that the most important factor when choosing a job is to do something you enjoy. Despite this, many people stay in their job because it’s convenient or because they are comfortable and decide not to take a risk, regardless of the fact they feel unsatisfied and unmotivated.
Not Shaun McLean. He took the bold move to transfer from a comfortable office job to work 350ft off the ground as a Blade Technician, working on wind turbines. Read on to find out how Shaun’s decision to change jobs has changed his life for the better.
Why did you decide to change your career? And how did you get into this profession?
Working in an office in clerical and sales roles, I used to look at the jobs of the people I was placing and think how much fun it looked. I began to grow tired of gazing out of the window seeing others enjoy their jobs more than I was and I realised it was time for a change. A friend working in the oil and gas industry suggested I look at renewables and it lit a fire in me.
I’ve now been working as a Blade Technician for a year but it took a lot of training to get to this point and every bit of it was worth it. I did my training at MAERSK in Newcastle under a career transition programme, which you can get funding for. I, however, paid for it myself and because I did, I think it made me even more committed to succeed. I threw myself into the training and got so many certificates, I can barely count them!
The most important qualification I got was the Competent Rotoblade Technician qualification, which was a two week course. I’m also IRATA certified, have a CCNSG passport and I also did a full set of Global Wind Organisation Basic Safety Training certificates, including manual handling, first aid, fire awareness, sea survival, confined space and working at heights.
Even now I am still doing courses with the employers I work with, as I think it‘s important to stay on top of my game. Whilst it takes time and dedication to do the training, it’s completely worth it in the end to try something new and do a job you love.
How did the reality of the job live up to perception?
I definitely had preconceived ideas. I’d never worked offshore before and thought it would be horrible and salty! But working on the turbines is clean and modern, not what I imagined and a very pleasant bonus to the job.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It’s really tough to say because every day is different, but here’s a general snapshot of what we do.
In the morning you meet with the team at breakfast and either have a toolbox talk or a transfer to site. Before you go, everyone has a full kit check, which includes personal equipment, safety equipment and materials for the work you’ll do that day.
Transfer to the location, whether that be by boat, van or car and when we get to the site, we go through our standard routine of shutting down the turbine and ensuring it’s safe to work on. Once this is done we carry out the work as instructed to us by the client, record a report based on the work we’ve done, which includes photographs, measurements and sound tests and once complete we pack up as instructed and transfer back to the hotel where the team will meet for dinner to finalise reports.
The average day lasts between 12-15 hours which sounds long but it doesn’t seem like it for me because I enjoy it.
What makes this career exciting for you?
A few years ago I was sat working full time in an office and now I’m being paid to hang off a 350ft turbine. You do have some hair-raising moments, but when you find yourself over the edge of the blade all the training kicks in and you truly enjoy the rush. I have moments where I struggle to believe that this is a job I get paid to do – that’s when I realise how lucky I am.
It’s a magical industry to work in; you meet loads of like-minded people who are keen to do a good job. I genuinely enjoy every day and wouldn’t swap careers with anyone.
What has been your career high point?
Easy, it was the first time over the edge of a turbine. I had done all that work and training, invested both my time and finances to get into this industry, and it was finally happening. All the training and preparation culminated in that one moment and it was a real high… I also thought, ‘I hope I’ve secured this rope!'
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do whilst at work?
The hardest thing about this job is being away from home and not being able to communicate when you’re living abroad. You have to be an effective communicator when you’re working and living in different countries so I bought a Go Pro and drone so that I could take photos and create video and send them back to my kids to let them know what I’m up to when I’m away. Other than leaving home that first day there are no hard bits to the job as I enjoy what I do.
Clean energy has a massive impact on the world. How important is this to you?
It is important; it’s a magical industry that I’m glad to be a part of. I’m active on social media and when I see a news headline like I did in the summer reading that for an entire four week period Scotland had the capacity to work off clean energy entirely it gives me a real buzz to know I’ve contributed to this.
Every time a blade technician works on a blade it is roughly 4% more efficient after the service, which shows the impact I can have doing my job.
Do you think it takes a certain kind of person to be a blade technician?
As a job it can be tough when unavoidable factors like weather are against you, but you just have to be open minded and tell yourself it’s the experience you signed up for and to just do the best you can. It also helps to be fit. A lot of the guys who enter this profession are physically very fit and come from military backgrounds. Sometimes I feel a bit behind and have to get myself to the gym but really the average guy with the right attitude could do this job.
Most importantly you have to be prepared to respond quickly when you get a call from your recruiter and get up there. I’ve seen a few blade technicians miss an opportunity by not being prepared to drop and go at the right time.
You work remotely so have to stay in hotels and you’re always spending time with your team from breakfast, to working on the blades right through to dinner time. You have to be an open minded person and get along with everyone. In this job, nothing is possible unless you make as many connections as you can and I wouldn’t have had this many opportunities without working with my recruitment consultant, Liam Wreford, who has helped me make lots of connections within this industry.
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