Life After the Forces: Michael O'Neil

Michael O’Neil served 22 years in the Royal Navy, here is his story -

As part of the daunting prospect of leaving the armed forces, I had to start to plan for my future outside of service life and a really important part of this was to consider what I would like to do as a civilian career. Over my years of service, I had seen first-hand how the Ministry of Defence’s approach and commitment to the health and safety of their personnel had developed and how this played a major part in my own role and this really interested me.

So, I decided this was what I would like to do and as I was finally getting my feet on dry land, chose construction as the sector I would like to work in. Although my military service had provided me with a wealth of transferable management skills, the next stage was to ensure I gained appropriate industry-recognised qualifications that would interest a prospective civilian employer.

I, therefore, invested a sizeable chunk of my learning credits into gaining my NEBOSH General, Construction, and Fire Certificates and I am also working towards an ISO 45001 auditor qualification. During my resettlement period, I booked myself on to a Career Transition Partnership (CTP) Jobs fair in Edinburgh. CTP events are great opportunities for service personnel and veterans to meet with a wide range of supportive employers.

It was extremely busy with around 60 employers taking part but the first stand that I came across was MEARS GROUP. After being greeted by one of the staff who also turned out to be Ex-Navy! I explained I was interested in construction health and safety and I was introduced to Ian Mavin who is the Head of Health and Safety for the North and Scotland.

During our conversation, I explained I was currently supporting a local Service Careers Office and would be settling back in Teeside when I left. Ian explained that in the past Mears had provided work placement opportunities for service leavers which could help enhance my CV and I immediately said I would be interested.

A couple of emails later and a two-week placement programme was arranged, during which I visited different branches and sites and spent time with a number of SHE Managers. I shadowed the new build SHE manager during inspections at sites in Durham and even spent a full day with the site manager, to see how he managed the day-to-day health and safety on site. I also visited branches in Spennymoor and Leeds and shadowed the SHE Managers who looked after refurbishment projects that included asbestos removal and managing large scaffolds. Finally, I sat in a Mears 1 Day SHE Awareness Course which was being delivered to operatives in Newcastle.

This attachment has been of huge benefit to me and has provided me with great experience and an understanding of some of the different aspects of work in which Mears Group are involved. It also gave me the opportunity to meet a team of professional SHE Managers, who have helped convince me I am making the right choice in perusing a career in construction health and safety and I would certainly recommend a placement with Mears to other service leavers who are given the opportunity.

For further information please contact 0870 607 1400