As part of our case study series, we have recently spoken with Joe Smithson, a CompEx qualified professional and previous JTL apprentice.

Joe started his career in the electrical industry by undertaking an electrical apprenticeship with JTL. Following this, Joe has quickly worked his way up the ranks, recently passing the CompEx Responsible Person (Ex14) course to recertify his qualification in managing and supervising those on-site.

Joe currently works as an Electrical and Instrumentation Maintenance Engineer at Lenzing Fibers Grimsby Ltd., an international organisation that manufactures manmade organic fibres.

What made you decide to do an apprenticeship and what JTL apprenticeship did you do?

The decision to pursue a JTL apprenticeship was due to me wanting to move away from traditional classroom-based education.

My father was also a large influence as he worked as an experienced electrician at EI WHS, so I then decided to take a four-year Modern Advanced Electrical Installation Apprenticeship working at the same company as him.

The JTL apprenticeship included day release to Scunthorpe North Lindsey College each week mixing practical and theoretical learning, and then four days on-site working across a diverse range of projects including steelmaking, oil and gas, and power generation.

For the first two years of my apprenticeship, I took the City and Guilds 2330 course at college and then for the final two years of my qualification I worked on my portfolio to achieve the NVQ Level 3.

What did you like most about your JTL apprenticeship?

I really appreciated the hands-on learning approach to my apprenticeship and hearing from experienced professionals in the field, as both resonated with my learning style and emphasised the practical application of the knowledge that had been taught.

How important was your JTL Training Officer, John Harris, during your apprenticeship?

John was extremely important throughout my apprenticeship qualification; he was very understanding and patient with the apprentices he looked after.

A standout moment with John was when he assisted us with the inspection and testing stages at the training centre in Tankersley. We all had limited knowledge on due to the nature of our on-site roles so John really took the time to work with us on this.

John now works as a Technical Development Manager at CompEx, applying his wide range of electrical industry experience from working in the Oil and Gas, Petrochemical and Power Generation sectors.

What was your career progression following your apprenticeship?

 After completing my apprenticeship, I decided to then apply this knowledge to a university degree and achieved a First Class Hons in Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University.

Following my university graduation, I moved from Team Leader into the role of Maintenance Engineer.

I then went on to undertake a Higher National Certificate (HNC) and a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Electrical Engineering, which I did while working full time.

What was the reason you then decided to do a CompEx course?

I decided to do the CompEx Gas and Vapours (Ex01-Ex04) course so I was able to work on the ATEX Inspections in the oil and gas industry that I operated in. My initial CompEx training was completed across two different sites. I took Gas and Vapours (Ex01-Ex04) at HETA in Scunthorpe and Foundation (ExF) and Responsible Person (Ex14) at Roxby Training in Stallingborough.

I am a motivated individual and found that undertaking this course helped to push me to learn new skills that I could apply to my current role.

The Responsible Person (Ex14) course helped towards me progress from Team Leader into my current role of an Electrical and Instrumentation Engineer.

How valuable would you say your initial CompEx qualification was to your career development?

Taking the Gas and Vapours (Ex01-Ex04) qualification was a crucial next step in my career when I was operating in the oil and gas industry. The course allowed me to develop new skills, while carrying out the practical work that was required by the company at the time.

After completing the training, I was able to naturally progress in my role and this qualified me to be able to install and inspect the equipment I was working with.

What does your current role as an Electrical and Instrumentation Maintenance Engineer entail?

I’ve worked at Lenzing Fibers Grimsby Ltd. for five years now and my current role requires me to ensure that planned and reactive maintenance is effectively prioritised and implemented, with minimum impact to the plant production. I also investigate electrical and instrumentation engineering problems and ensure appropriate solutions are put in place to resolve these, as well as supporting on capital and reliability projects on-site.

Why did you undertake the CompEx Responsible Person (Ex14) qualification?

It was important for me to take the Responsible Person (Ex14) training to gain the qualification as we recognised on-site that we required a better way to manage our ATEX systems, but we didn’t have the skill set to deliver this.

I discussed what we would like to do with the team at CompEx approved training centre, Roxby Training Solutions, and was advised that the best course to take was the Responsible Person (Ex14) training.

With Roxby Training Solutions only being based in Stallingborough, a few miles away from our site, we thought it was the ideal centre to undertake the course at as they cover most of our training requirements, and we already had a good working relationship.

How do to you intend to use the new skills that you have developed as a result of your recent CompEx qualification within your current role?

I will use the skills that I have gained from this qualification to develop our current ATEX management system, which will then allow me to ensure all inspections are carried out in a timely and safe manner and that the following paperwork is documented accordingly.

Has anyone else at Lenzing Fibers Grimsby Ltd. taken CompEx qualifications?

We are always exploring opportunities for our team members to personally develop and last year a few individuals from our technicians and management team completed CompEx qualifications including Gas and Vapours (Ex01 – Ex04), Dust (Ex05 – Ex06), Foundation (ExF) and Responsible Person (Ex14).

Would you recommend CompEx? If so, why?

Yes, I would definitely recommend CompEx qualifications as a form of upskilling. If you have ATEX areas on the site you operate in, the training is a must, even if it is just used for understanding purposes.

Joe Smithson’s journey is a prime example of the transformative impact of both a JTL apprenticeship and CompEx qualifications can have on career development, as well as on-site safety management in hazardous and explosive environments.

Find out more about CompEx’s qualifications here.