Our engineers are made of sturdy stuff. They struggle through rain, sleet and snow to keep our customers’ homes working and warm. But what else goes into a British Gas engineer? We spoke to Iain Bell, a longstanding member of the team, to find out.
When and where did you start working as a British Gas engineer, Iain?
I started out in Glasgow, in 1986 and worked there until 2000. I was in Stockport from 2000–2006 and then moved to London. I’ve been here ever since.
Were you already an engineer before you decided to wear the blue jacket?
No, I started out as an apprentice. My first day was 11 August 1986.
So that was the first step of a long journey?
Yes, it was. I was an apprentice for three years. I remember the first day of training. It was like the first day of school – nervous but very exciting!
Had you done any training before you joined British Gas?
No, nothing. I was doing a milk round.
How long did it take to become a qualified British Gas engineer?
Do you remember your first call out?
I honestly cannot remember. It would have been a same-day service job in Glasgow.
What’s been your biggest high point since then?
Passing my City & Guilds qualification.
And a low point?
Hasn’t been one!
Wow. Impressive! What qualifications do you have now?
ACS in Gas (which stands for Accredited Certification Scheme), an HNC in Mechanical and Production Engineering, and an HND in Business Management.
What happened when you passed? A ceremony? A handshake? Where was it?
We got a letter in the post saying whether you passed or not, so no real ceremony. After sitting final exams we went to pub.
What’s the one most important thing about being a British Gas engineer?
Honestly, I think being able to communicate with customers, and people in general.
What standards and principles do British Gas engineers live by?
In my view, it’s being the best at the job we do, working safely and knowing there is no one better than a British Gas trained engineer!
How did it feel when you first put on the uniform?
I am still immensely proud to wear the uniform, 32 years after first putting one on.
That’s a long time on the job. Have you had some funny call-outs over the years?
I’ve been called out many times to rescue birds stuck behind fires, and I am terrified of birds!
Ever been scared of a family pet on a call-out?
Once. The customer had a huge lizard sitting in the living room on top of the TV. I thought it was an ornament at first, but I kept seeing something moving at side of my eye...
What about memorable customers? Have you looked after any celebrities?
Probably the most memorable was when we fixed the gas lamps in Kensington Palace.
Do you like your job?
I love it!
Are you still learning from your work?
Yes. And we go on refresher training courses every three months.
Any particularly memorable incidents from training?
Back in the old days, when we used to finish training at the training centre on a Friday, we had to hand in all the copper and brass fittings and tools we used during the week. We would line up one-by-one and hand everything back to the storeman and he would tick it off the register.
One of the boys handed his stuff back and we went to the changing room to get changed out of our overalls. As he took off his overalls there must have been at least 50 fittings fall out of his pockets all over the floor, just as the instructors came in to say goodbye! He was obviously doing some fitting work at home that weekend and didn’t want to buy them.
You wouldn’t get that today. It still makes me laugh thinking about it..
Any advice for someone thinking about becoming a British Gas engineer?
It is a great career, where can you learn a lot about gas, plumbing and electrics. So go for it! You will not regret it.