Qualified, experienced and a top candidate

When Helen McCrea first started looking for work she suffered a common predicament - no experience meant no job and no job meant no experience.


She'd spent many years studying for her engineering qualifications - a BTEC National Diploma in Engineering followed by a degree in Mechanical Engineering. But she found it difficult to find a job in Belfast, where she lived.


Fortunately Helen knew someone who could offer her a short-term contract. It wasn't exactly what she'd qualified to do, but it was a job all the same. She was asked to do risk assessments.


When her 12 month contract came to an end, Helen got an interview with a big local textile machinery manufacturer, Mackie International, for a job as a Mechanical Engineer. She didn't get the job, but they were impressed by her risk assessment work and offered her a similar safety role. She was soon promoted to Product Safety Engineer.


Helen liked working at Mackie, but the company was struggling. She decided to move on - a good move as the firm closed down in 1999. Her new job was at a foundry where she filled in temporarily for the Health and Safety Adviser who was on maternity leave. After this, she took on the role of Project Engineer. A lot of the project work covered environmental management, including going for ISO 14001, something she really enjoyed.


What Helen didn't enjoy was the hands-on work. The "dirty work" as she called it. She didn't like the conditions at the foundry and began facing up to the fact that engineering wasn't really for her. Producing documents, carrying out audits and making sure safety and environmental standards were being met, was more her thing.


That was when Helen decided to do her NEBOSH General Certificate in Occupational Safety and Health. She wanted to "move up and move on."


This led to her becoming Health and Safety Adviser at a large construction business. The work took her to sites throughout the UK. She gained experience and attended many safety courses such as scaffolding for supervisors, confined space entry and rescue, working at height and fire safety.


Helen's experience and reputation was growing. She applied to become a Safety, Health, Environment & Quality Adviser at another construction business, Maurice Flynn & Sons.


The company wanted her to start straightaway. They too were keen to achieve the environmental management standard ISO 14001 and could see that Helen's past experience would be a big help. But they wanted her to have a NEBOSH Certificate in Environmental Management as well. They offered her the job on condition she started the course immediately. Helen agreed.


Maurice Flynn & Sons now has ISO 14001 and Helen not only has her Environmental Certificate, but achieved the 'Top Candidate' award, something she's rightly proud of. She thinks her experience had a big part to play in this.


Helen is very modest and practical about what her NEBOSH qualifications mean: "You don't get a pay-rise or a promotion just because you pass something, you have to have the knowledge the qualification provides you with. I couldn't do my job without that knowledge."