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Learner to leader - case study - Iain Bell

Iain Bell, Operations Manager at British Gas

As a 17-year-old British Gas apprentice in Glasgow, Iain Bell could never have predicted that 31 years later he would be managing a team of more than 100 people in London and working with film producers as part of his day job.

Now, aged 47, Iain is an Area Manager at British Gas, and heads the company’s central London patch of 140 home service engineers. He also leads a unique team of five lamplighters, responsible for lighting London’s 1,500 traditional gas lamps every evening.

Protected by English Heritage, the lamps can be found in London’s palaces, parks and historic sites, such as Westminster Abbey and Covent Garden, and are a major attraction – both for tourists and period film makers. In fact, Iain recently worked as a consultant on the set of Mary Poppins 2, helping producers use the gas lamps to create the perfect setting for the classic film’s sequel.

Back in 1986, despite having a job offer and a place at his local college, Iain saw the benefit of the apprenticeship route and joined the British Gas scheme.

Training at the Dawsholm depot in Glasgow, he developed his engineering skills and became a fully-qualified Technical engineer three years later.

In 2000, Iain was selected to work on British Gas’ first ever technical helpdesk in Stockport, and just two years later, became the manager of the team. This management experience set him up for a series of increasingly senior management positions, culminating in his appointment as Area Manager of the coveted central London patch in 2012.

Iain puts his progression down to the skills he learnt during his apprenticeship, and is now closely involved in recruiting new apprentices at British Gas. He wants more young people to explore the career opportunities this training route can offer.

He said: “An apprenticeship is a unique opportunity to learn about a role, and a business, in a really immersive way. With the hands-on experience it offers and the earning potential from day-one, I’d encourage people exploring a new career to consider it equally against the option of university.
“One of the first things my apprenticeship taught me was how to talk to people, which helped to improve my confidence and communication skills.
"As a Technical engineer you’re welcomed into customers’ houses and expected to fix things quickly, but you also need to know how to manage difficult situations. I definitely couldn’t have learnt both skills at the same time through a college course.

“The position I’m in now is varied and really fulfilling. My journey to this point has been made possible by my apprenticeship – and for that I’m grateful.” 


Notes to editors

For more information please contact Bieneosa Ebite

01784 843 000

British Gas is Britain’s leading energy supplier, and serves around 11 million homes in Britain – nearly half the country’s homes – as well as providing energy to around half a million British businesses. British Gas provides value for money, dedicated customer service, innovative energy solutions and the highest quality Homes Services expertise in the country. Find out more at

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