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Colin- Head of Profession for Electrical Engineering

How long have you worked at AWE?

I have worked at AWE for over 25 years occupying various positions in maintenance, facility engineering management and design authority.

What does your role involve?

As Lead Technical Authority, I am responsible for the production and maintenance of the AWE engineering design guides and standards, and provide support in the assessment of designs against regulations, standards and good engineering practice. I assess the competency of electrical designers and provide internal electrical engineering consultancy. As Senior Electrical Authority I am responsible for the setting of AWE policy on electrical safety (Electrical Safety Code) and appoint and oversee a tiered structure of electrical authorised persons to advise on, and manage electrical safety throughout the company. Being Head of Profession is a new role for me, but the aim is to champion the electrical engineering discipline, encouraging the development of engineers by providing a recognised, accredited mentoring network and promoting the profession both within and external to AWE.

What is you previous experience?

I have over 34 years’ experience as an electrical engineer since completing an electrical apprenticeship in 1982, working in the electrical contracting sector in various roles from an electrical installer through to senior designer, before joining AWE in 1991. 

What is important about your discipline?

We all come into contact with electrical systems every day of our lives and rely on its availability- switching the light on in the morning, powering up equipment at work, charging a mobile phone. It is the responsibility of electrical engineers to ensure that the electrical system and infrastructure is safe to use and delivers requirements: the appropriate lighting levels, enough power to run a supercomputer and its cooling systems, an appropriate socket outlet in a suitable location. The fundamental requirement is to protect persons, property and livestock from the effects of electricity, be that the direct effects of a shock or the indirect effect such as fire as a result of faults on electrical systems.

Who do you work with? 

I work with electrical engineers both at AWE and from outside consultancies and design houses working on AWE projects. I liaise with and provide assistance to facility management and maintenance teams on electrical matters. As HoP, I will be working at maintaining close links to professional institutions such as the Institution of Engineeting and Technology, industry and academia, although this is already very evident in the HoP community I have been invited to join.

What is a typical day like?

A typical day involves juggling several balls wearing different hats, with the occasional chainsaw thrown in for good measure (would make for an entertaining circus act!). My work can be quite varied and reactive which makes for an interesting and challenging work life. I can work on anything from installations in a Portakabin to a 40MW electrical supply. 

What projects are you working on?

I have a close relationship with the French radiographic/hydrodynamics facility, Epure, with the interesting challenges that provides as it is a major installation in another country taking cognisance of their regulations, standards and working practices, ensuring the safety of UK workers and meeting our operational requirements.

I can have a level of involvement and input into any project, be that a major new build or minor works, with an electrical content, reviewing and advising on electrical system designs. I also work with facilities and maintenance teams providing a consultancy and advisory service. It requires an in-depth and breadth of knowledge and experience in electrical systems as well as a pragmatic approach, due to the quite varied building stock and installed systems on AWE sites.

Share your views on the importance of research or STEM

These areas are the fundamental building blocks for the UK’s continued prosperity in a world which is increasingly dependent on technology, and to continue to influence and lead in science and research.It is vitally important to introduce and foster the interest of people in STEM. There are various initiatives making information and resources available to educators (for both them and their pupils), and also the STEM Network (STEMNET) which is a UK-wide government-backed organisation, set up to inspire young people to take an interest in STEM.

What do you think is the biggest global challenge for your discipline?

 Perhaps not a global thing but it appears to me there has been a greater interest in the use of electricity i.e. lot of interest in IT subjects and the likes, rather than the engineering of the electrical supplies to power it. A personal view from my experience in the industry, an apparent gap in the availability of skilled electrical engineers.

 

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