Following the introductory article in January’s issue, which discussed the opportunities for electricians in off-shore renewables, we catch up with John Fogden from Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) to find out more about how he has forged his own path in this burgeoning sector.
Q. What is your current role within SGRE?
I originally started (as we all do) as a TT (turbine tech) training towards being a CT-C Competent Technician Commissioning, but I am actually about to start a new role as Foreman Pre-assembly. The CT-C role that I’ve served for six years now can be wide ranging and can change from project to project. There’s plenty of variety in the role, including commissioning, troubleshooting on electrical systems, installation works, service works, repair and retro-fit works. These are just a few of the many tasks you may be required to carry out.
Q. What was your background before starting with SGRE?
Before arriving at SGRE I joined the Army as an apprentice Armourer at 16 years old and was there for over five years. On leaving the Army I joined an electrical contracting company and paid for myself to go to college and become a qualified electrician. Over the next 25 years I worked in the commercial and industrial contracting industry as an electrical foreman and had spells as a project manager before joining SGRE.
Q. How long have you been with SGRE and what encouraged you to start with the firm?
I’ve been with SGRE for nine years now. Over a period of time I’d become very despondent with the electrical contracting industry with the financial and time restraints of projects resulting in cheap installations, poor quality of supplied labour and the quality of the finished product. I needed a challenge at work and it didn’t do it for me anymore. A friend within SGRE told me about the company and the work it carried out and said I should apply for a commissioning position as it sounded like it was the career I’d been looking for. It was good advice.
Q. Give us a flavour of some of the projects you’ve worked on at SGRE and what you’re up to currently.
I’ve predominantly been working on European projects in the UK (Gwynt Y Mor, Walney Extension, Hornsea 1, EA 1), Germany (Amrumbank, Sandbank, Riffgrund) and Finland (Tahkoluoto) but due to the international growth of renewables I’ve spent the last three years based in Taiwan (Yunlin and Greater Changhua).
Q. What does a typical day look like for you?
At present, being based in Asia, our rotation shift pattern is on a four weeks ‘on’ and four weeks ‘off’ schedule, working a 12-hour day, six days a week. Sunday is designated as a paid day off due to local employment laws. In terms of the work, I’ve been working on the Yunlin pre-assembly site, performing scheduled maintenance on the assets, preparing the assets for loadout, retro-fit works, NCR repairs, troubleshooting and tower testing. A large part of my role also involves training the SGRE Taiwanese technicians in getting their log books completed and signed off.
Q. How do you manage your training and ensure you keep up-to-date with current courses and developments?
I normally complete my trainings in my off rotation time to save issues with finding cover etc. I can, however, also earn extra income for completing trainings outside of my work rotation period. There are now two GWO training centres in Taiwan, so this is where I have been undertaking and completing some of my trainings, as I don’t return back to the UK very often.
Q. Would you recommend a career in renewables to other electricians?
Yes very much so! You might have to adjust to the new work/life balance, which may not suit everyone, but If you want a career that offers you the chance to challenge and develop yourself, the opportunity to travel, work in exciting environments and feel rewarded in the knowledge you are doing something positive for the future of the planet and environment, this is definitely the career for you. If you and your family can handle the fact you’ll be working away from home for periods of time, you are rewarded with some serious quality time to spend with them when you are at home. A decent salary and good terms and conditions are also real benefits.
Q. What does your future in renewables look like? Where are you headed next?
The awareness and use of renewables will continue to explode worldwide for the foreseeable future, so this means more travel opportunities will be forthcoming. When you look at the speed at which the technology is evolving it is an exciting time, and it also keeps you challenged mentally when you’re working on new projects. As mentioned earlier, I’ve recently moved into a foreman role and due to my relocating and living in Taiwan I hope that I can continue to work in the APAC countries. I’m in my 50s now and know I still have future opportunities in other roles if I wish to explore them, so this makes me feel positive that I have a secure career and a pathway that allows for progression.
Find out more about the current roles and vacancies at Siemens Gamesa here