A reflection on 2020: Olly Blay, Mechanical Fitter, Southampton

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Did your work patterns change in 2020 because of the pandemic, and if yes, how?

I’m sure 2020 was a year that most of us would like to forget for one reason or another. There were plenty of changes that proved challenging, and some that still are. In the early part of the pandemic, we learned of the furlough scheme which the Government put in place to protect the jobs of as many as possible. This saw our teams here in the maintenance department split into two, with half of us going on one month’s furlough, whilst the other half of the team stayed at work. Then the following month, when we came back to work the other half of the team went on furlough, we did this for 4 months, so in total I had 2 months off work (April and June). This bought about its challenges due to the fact we were working at only half capacity, but it was an experience of work I won’t forget. Later on in the year, as the country started to experience the second wave of Covid-19 the 2nd national lockdown was announced.

In order to protect myself and my colleagues we were placed into more strict bubbles, again the teams were split in half and our start times are now staggered by 1 hour along with our finish times. This eliminates the risk of close contact in the event of one of us contracting the virus and limits the spread of it around our place of work. I have also learned (and am still learning) to always be resilient. Even when things don’t seem to be heading in the right direction, it is so important to always keep a positive mindset in order to have a positive outcome to whatever it is you’re doing.

How did ABP support you during this time?

ABP supported us/me very well during this time. On a personal note, I was in the middle of my final year in my HNC when the first lockdown was announced. Therefore, from March I was required to finish my qualification 100% virtually and from home or here at work. Throughout this I wanted for nothing when it came to getting my HNC finished and the support I received from ABP, my line manager and supervisor was second to none. On a more day to day basis, ABP has supported us very well, we are never short of Covid PPE in addition to our normal 5 points. The staggered start and finish times mean we, in my smaller team, are in contact with as few people as possible. I come to work feeling safe and do not feel at risk. Whilst on furlough at the beginning of the year we were in contact every week with our supervisor and/or line manager and it felt as though, not only were our jobs being protected, but we were too.

Were there any positive highlights for you in 2020?

2020 wasn’t short of its positives, as during the pandemic I was able to successfully complete my HNC at University. Only this week I received my certificate for this, which I am very happy about as this is a worthy addition to my apprenticeship that I completed in 2019. During 2020, I was able to become more independent in my way of work whilst continuing to learn my trade. I have had experiences of crane breakdowns at times where I haven’t had the immediate support of the colleagues I had in the past or throughout my apprenticeship. This has helped me to be more confident in my role as a Fitter.

At the beginning of 2020 I made some lifestyle changes, the goal was to become healthier and to have something positive to focus on. When the gyms closed at the beginning of the pandemic, I didn’t want to let that hinder the journey I had started, so when I went on furlough for the first time, I took up running as a way to continue being healthy and as a new hobby. I also saw this as an important way of the looking after both my physical and mental wellbeing. Fast forward almost a year, 3 sets of running trainers later, I’m still very much enjoying my newfound hobby and I am currently training to be able to run a half marathon (2021 goal). In Q3 of 2020 I was asked to be a part of the ABP group campaign “It’s safe to talk”. This was a great experience for me as it was something I had never done before and gave me the opportunity to make a contribution to a campaign about mental and physical wellbeing, something I was already doing for myself.

What are your biggest hopes for 2021 and beyond?

My biggest hopes for 2021 are to continue what I started last year, and that is always remaining resilient both in and out of work, having the mindset that we can and will come through these challenging times. Continuing to promote Health and Safety at work as one of ABP’s core values, as safety rep for the maintenance department this is something, I am passionate about. Now that I have completed my engineering HNC and received the certification for this it is my hope to be able to continue developing my engineering skills, using what I learned in both my apprenticeship and HNC, here with ABP. My hopes beyond 2021 are to be able to support ABP with its growth as a company and to make my contribution in order to keep Britain trading. Whilst there are challenges ahead, we must look beyond these challenges to the opportunities we have in the future.

Applications for ABP’s Apprenticeship Programme are open until Sunday 21st February. Find out more and apply here.