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A day in the life – Dean McLeod, Hydraulic Technician, Sparrows Group


I joined Sparrows Group in 2013 as an apprentice hydraulic technician. Following four years of on-the-job training alongside studying at North East Scotland College, I passed my apprenticeship with a Higher National Certificate in Engineering Practice and an SVQ Level 3 Diploma in Engineering Maintenance in December 2017.

Sparrows is a specialist equipment and integrated engineering services provider with an established reputation for training and developing its employees, which definitely attracted me to work there.

As a fully qualified hydraulic technician based at Bridge of Don, Aberdeen, I am responsible for the service, repair and refurbishment of a wide variety of hydraulic and associated systems. My day starts at 7.30am when I arrive at the workshop and get into my safety gear. Hard hats, gloves, safety glasses and steel toe-capped boots are the essential uniform for working in the manufacturing area. My job is varied but my mornings always start with a Toolbox Talk, where the supervisor briefs us on any particular safety issues, and then we discuss the schedule for the day and what everyone is working on.

I’m currently based in the pumps and motors workshop, carrying out refurbishment and repair work, although I work closely with the wider hydraulics team on challenging work scopes for our customers. Depending on the project there’s also plenty of opportunity to work with colleagues across the different disciplines such as electrical and mechanical.

Although it’s not always easy, I really thrive in this busy environment. Sparrows has been active in the North Sea oil and gas market for more than 40 years, but the business has more recently moved into the renewable sector, which is adding even more variety to my day.

One of the largest work scopes I’ve been involved in to date is the East Anglia ONE project. This involved manufacturing 102 cranes for Scottish Renewables. We had to complete a number of Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) on each crane, which was a huge undertaking for the whole workshop as we could be examining up to ten cranes a week. Though there were some challenges along the way, it was a real example of how we needed to work as a team to get the job completed on time, and to Sparrows’ high standard, of course.

In what can often be a high-pressure environment, team morale is essential and I have found that a bit of encouragement and motivation goes a long way to maintaining the positive atmosphere and culture in the workshop. I usually take lunch around 12.30pm and it’s a great time to chat with the wider team and see what projects and activity others are working on.

While I’m based in the workshop, communication is key across the business, so my afternoon can often take me into the office if I need to discuss elements of a project with others. The project engineers are really helpful and if there’s something that needs further input the business managers are always available to discuss and provide guidance. Even at a senior level, everyone is approachable so it’s good to know that there’s always support when it’s needed.

Working in a busy workshop environment, we must adhere to strict high quality and safety standards while ensuring efficient operations at all times. I play an important part in ensuring best practice is followed including undertaking daily machinery checks to verify that the equipment is working correctly, and also submitting report cards for each job I complete.

While I may be in the early stages of my career, I see a long future in the oil and gas sector and at Sparrows Group too. I have a real passion for the energy industries and having recently completed my Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET), I’m already aspiring to travel offshore and gain experience in a different area of the business.

Joining the company as an apprentice gave me the opportunity to gain invaluable practical experience while studying, it’s an experience I can’t recommend highly enough to anyone looking to enter the industry.

Published: 22-12-2018
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