Rose MacKinnon was the first woman apprentice to join UK Power Networks’ apprenticeship scheme which has seen her 40 year career develop from apprentice electrician to health and safety advisor

When I was at school I was looking for a job that wasn’t in an office or a shop, I wanted to work on something different. I saw an advert in the local newspaper for a job with SEEBOARD (South Eastern Electricity Board, a precursor to UK Power Networks) on their apprenticeship programme with them so I applied.

In those days we had to do some basic tests in English and Maths, I passed those and went for an interview and they accepted me as an electrician and I become the first woman to enrol on their apprenticeship programme. I started in August 1979, the first year was a combination of college and the training school. It subsequently involved visiting the various department of SEEBOARD to get an idea of what it was all about, such as the drawing office, stores, contracting, overhead lines, jointing, fitting and service and maintenance.

After finishing my four year apprenticeship I joined the service and maintenance department, repairing cookers and attending no supply calls and this later spread across all the repairs for white goods. I also became a safety rep for the union.

In 1992 I had my daughter and divorced in 1995 however with the help of my parents and childminders I remained with SEEBOARD. I transferred to revenue protection that mainly involved retrieving money back for electricity abstraction. I then went on to manage Cablewatch, a free service for applying for plans of all voltages of our network, this also included training Contractors on how to avoid our underground cables and services.

In 2005 I joined the Safety, Health and Environment department and it was here that I was encouraged to complete a Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety. Today I write safety policy, risk assessments, technical specifications for equipment and PPE (personal protection equipment) used on our network as well as the control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH).

While in many ways the industry is very much the same now as it was when I started, the technology has definitely developed and improved. The people I work with at UK Power Networks are as friendly and helpful as they always have been when I joined 40 years ago. I would encourage other women to apply for work in our industry as the work is varied and the diversification of roles within the business is vast.