After a 21-month safety, health and environment (SHE) apprenticeship with Kärcher, Liv Beckinsale joined the cleaning technology firm as a SHE coordinator in May. Last year, as an 18-year-old, she attended the inaugural IOSH Future Leaders Conference.
Q. What prompted you to enter the world of OSH?
I started sixth form with few ideas about my career path, although I was working part-time in retail and had discovered how important health and safety was. I spent a while researching the right apprenticeship and realised the perfect one was at Kärcher. Family friends had worked there, so I knew it was a great company to work for.
Q. What were your expectations before starting your apprenticeship and what were your first impressions?
I was nervous because I didn’t know anyone who had been in the health and safety profession before, so I was researching everything. My manager, who was also my mentor at the time, showed me the ropes and introduced me to platforms such as IOSH. I soon started learning everything that I had been previously concerned about.
Q. What issues did you encounter and what were the highlights?
I found it quite difficult to remember the legislation by heart to begin with, although much of it comes naturally to me now. I would definitely recommend revision cards to help the information stick.
I enjoyed all the training from my apprenticeship provider, RHG Consult. I took courses such as accident investigation, project management and IOSH’s Managing Safely. It was a great form of classroom learning, and training alongside other people helped build my confidence.
Q. How has the apprenticeship equipped you for your new role at Kärcher?
It’s given me the confidence and knowledge I need. I was told that you never stop learning as an OSH professional, and I couldn’t agree more – but the apprenticeship is a great stepping stone into the profession. I had one day a week when I could study for my exams. But being in full-time employment doesn’t feel that different from being an apprentice: learning at the same time as working.
Q. What was most challenging in completing the apprenticeship?
I found learning about new PPE and trying to source it was difficult. It was something that we had never needed before. When you’re in a role to protect others, you just want to ensure they feel comfortable and prepared to go to work. Perseverance is definitely the key.
The pandemic was challenging, but it has made me more adaptable. It’s also made other people realise the importance of health and safety. I think the world of OSH will be different now and anything we do will have to include COVID-19 in the mix, with things such as risk assessment and guidance seemingly needing to be constantly changed and updated.
What is a SHE apprenticeship?
The SHE apprenticeship is a Level 3 qualification developed by a ‘trailblazer’ group of employers over an 18-month consultation with IOSH. This consultation process has ensured that apprentices gain the relevant knowledge, skills and behaviours required for technical IOSH membership. bit.ly/IOSH-SHE-apprenticeship
Q. Before your apprenticeship, you worked in retail and as a volunteer. What skills have you brought from those jobs to your new role?
Both jobs were opportunities to learn about team-building and to understand how other people think and work. A vital part of the health and safety profession is getting to know others and knowing what’s best for them, and I like to think I have brought my teamwork ethic to the role. When I’m working with others to create risk assessments and procedures that will affect their department, it’s rewarding to see the appreciation they feel when you’re willing to work alongside them and value their opinion. This is particularly important when implementing new changes to the business.
Q. Where do you see your current role taking you?
My next step is to achieve NVQ level 5 in health and safety. At the moment I’m still trying to gain as much experience as possible and learn as much as I can, but I’m very excited about what the future holds. I am also utilising the IOSH mentoring scheme to aid with this. I’m definitely very happy working where I am at the moment. I attended the IOSH Future Leaders Conference last year and met many professionals who work in the construction industry, and I do find that a very interesting sector.
Q. What do you wish you’d known before joining the OSH profession?
Health and safety isn’t spoken about much outside the OSH world, so I think it’s important that we raise our profile and let people – especially young people – know what a fascinating, diverse career this can be.
Q. What are the prospects for Future Leaders in OSH?
Methods are becoming more digitalised and innovative. OSH professionals from different generations and sectors are able to learn from one another and work as one big team – this suggests a promising future.
My key takeaways: What are your top tips for apprentices?
Don’t stick to the same learning process – change the way you work, and use books, modules, webinars and any resources you can.
Keep hold of all the resources you’ve learnt from as you may need to refer to them again in the future.
Try to go to as many conferences as possible and network with other people – you can learn so much from what other people have experienced.
Don’t be nervous to ask – there’s no such thing as a bad question.
Take advantage of every opportunity to gain as much experience as possible. You can never learn enough.