Friday, September 14, 2012

Where it all started for me

I think I'd better start at the start of my career; When I was born? October 1973. 

Not much happened that year. Nixon started his second term, the Vietnam war had all but ended, Skylab was launched, the Soviet 'Concordski' crashed at the Paris Air Show, Nixon got into trouble for Watergate, Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in tennis, the famous 'Battle of the sexes', the Yom Kippur War started and finished, the Sydney Opera House was opened, and nobody famous was born (on my birthday, anyway)!

Actually, quite a bit happened! I stand corrected!

RNZAF A-4K Skyhawks

From about age 7, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. RNZAF A-4k Skyhawks, to be precise. My whole school focus was based around that. I turned out to be too slow at maths for that.. sigh!

In my high school holidays, I worked for Stark Brothers Boatbuilders in Lyttelton labouring. It was good money, and messy work! I learnt two major things; I REFUSE to have a lifetime career as a labourer, and it was possible for a single person to sweep the entire Lyttelton Dry Dock!

Lyttelton dry dock

I also worked on the wharf occasionally, and in the Chocolate House shop in Christchurch. My dream of being a fighter pilot destroyed forever, I decided I needed to think of a new career.

Being observant as I am, I couldn't help but notice that people were being replaced by machines in industry everywhere. My logic? Install and repair the machines! That way I had the system beat. So off I went to CPIT Electrotechnology to become an Electronics Engineer. 

I learnt quite a lot, but it dawned on me that I was facing a career in sitting at a desk with a soldering iron. But an inspirational tutor called Gary (an electrician) sold me into the idea of becoming an electrician too. So off to pre-trade electrical I went.. in 1993. 

At this point, the only way to get a career in the electrical supply industry (it seemed) was to know somebody or be related to somebody in the supply industry. So that option just didn't seem obvious at that stage. 

I finished pre-trade (2nd in the class, dammit!) and got an apprenticeship at PDL Industries after being rejected by the Lyttelton Port Company (they thought I'd somehow fail my theory exam?). All 3 other members of my family were working for the Port Company. LPC obviously didn't want the 'full house'.

PDL Industries

I loved my time at PDL. It was a great factory and had hundreds of awesome people there. Both my bosses during my apprenticeship (Robin and Murray) were great teachers and I owe a lot to both guys.

There is an 'understanding' in the electrical trade that 'you don't stay where you do your apprenticeship'. So when I became registered, I started looking elsewhere. I found a great job with lots of perks at Coca Cola Amatil. Purely a financial move, I stayed there for 8 years, installing, maintaining and repairing drink machines, bar systems, fridges, icemakers and the like.

Around 2006 I bumped into two of my old CPIT electrical tutors, Bob McCreanor and Murray Richards (
Murray passed away in 2009, RIP.). Both suggested I should consider becoming an electrical tutor. I was surprised, not so much from Bob, but Murray was my arch-nemesis as a tutor! Maybe this is Murray's revenge!

So I applied, and thanks to Bob, Murray and a South African supply electrician being scared of heights, I got one of the two jobs going! The other was obtained by Mr. Stephen Byers, my great friend, mentor, supporter, and all-round nice guy.

Steve and I were advised that CPIT had tried for years to employ a supply tutor and the pay was never attractive enough to drag one out of the trade, so CPIT had elected to train in-house somebody to teach supply. Steve was chosen as the man, and deservedly so. 

So off I went, happily teaching prospective electricians their trade. I loved it (and still do!) and both Steves (Price and Byers) taught the electrical supply pre-trade and made it the fantastic course it is today. I did (from the start) get to teach the ESITO Taster course (a brief course where high school students get to learn about careers in the supply industry), which was fun and quite rewarding.

ESITO Taster course

I completed my Certificate in Adult Teaching certificate and in August 2010, I was approached by my Head of School and the Dean and asked to take my (after 5 years employment) 20 week Academic Study Leave to learn some of the Cable Jointing and Line Mechanic trades, with a view to teaching them when I got back. I saw this as a huge opportunity and accepted. The start date was set to work with Connetics (a Christchurch distribution network company) in late January 2011.

On Saturday 4th September 2010 at 4:35am, a completely unexpected magnitude 7.1 earthquake occurred 30km west of Christchurch. It created a lot of damage to Canterbury. This didn't hinder the plan for me, and so I started my ASL on the 31st January 2011, and kept a blog of it. 

 In the 4th week of my ASL, the terrible 22nd February 2011 magnitude 6.3 earthquake occurred. 183 people were killed and Christchurch got... well, munted. Infrastructure, buildings, society were all damaged. A national disaster was declared and it was a very very difficult time. 

My blog details the rest of that time on my ASL.

When I returned to CPIT after my ASL, it was business as usual. We had a new tutor from Scotland who worked in the supply industry, and he was the primary supply tutor. Stephen Byers went on to better things at the Electrotechnology Department of CPIT, and Stephen Price had become Line Manager for both the  Electrical and Plumbing sections.

2012 rolled around (after 2 more major earthquakes and 12,000 aftershocks) and our supply industry tutor got a new job installing diesel generators in the South Pacific. I was asked to fill the electrical supply tutor role, which I did, happily.

Next post: Spinoffs from my ASL and research!