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Purley electricity key worker remembers 40 years in power

Electricity key workers are marking 40 years’ service in jobs that help keep the country going.

From Press releases - 20 August 2020 12:00 AM

Nearly 90 fresh-faced recruits offered jobs in the electricity industry in 1980 went on to enjoy long and successful careers working on essential electricity networks that power homes, schools, hospitals and the economy across the South East, London and East of England.

One of those celebrating his staying power at UK Power Networks is Martin Brace, who is 57, from Purley, a commercial policy manager overseeing commercial contracts, costs, pricing, regulation and policy.

Martin said: “The time has flown by since I joined the company.  We are deemed ‘key workers’ because we all have a role to play to keep our customers’ power on. Electricity is such an important facet of our lives today, just imagine the look on your child’s face if they were told they could not recharge their smart phone or stream content on their PC, tablet or watch TV. 

“With the potential mass use of Electric Vehicles, electric heating systems, and other technologies, there will be an even greater need for skilled technical people in the electricity industry in the future. Whether this is associated with installing and maintaining the IT systems that control our customers’ supplies or heavy power engineering. The one thing I am sure of is that we will have an even greater reliance on electricity in the future, and face exciting, changing times ahead.

“In today’s modern world technology is advancing in every aspect of our lives, the way we relax, socialise and work. When I started working in the office as a trainee engineer, we used to hand-write letters for the ‘typing pool’ to produce. Today mobile telephony, communications and integrated IT systems have transformed the workplace.”

Normally, newcomers to UK Power Networks’ 40+ Club, which has over 500 employees with over 40 years’ continuous service, mark the special milestone together at a party that recognises the important role of long-serving employees. This year, celebrating safely at home, they include skilled experts in electricity engineering, linespeople, cable jointers, substation fitters, HR, projects and connections.

Basil Scarsella, chief executive of UK Power Networks, said: “I recognise and celebrate the dedication and expertise of our employees, many of who have lived and worked in the communities we serve, for a long time. Their work keeping the power on is usually carried out behind the scenes, but it enables everyone’s everyday lives to run smoothly.

“Even for those who have been with us for many decades, 2020 has been an unprecedented year and I am hugely proud of all of our staff’s response to the many challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, with everybody working hard to keep the power flowing. Clearly we cannot gather together for our usual 40+ Club dinner this year, but everybody appreciates the reasons why and it remains a milestone well worth marking.”

Martin joined the company’s apprenticeship scheme on 1 September 1980 to learn about underground cables, overhead power lines and substations before becoming a qualified electrician. He started his career quoting for domestic, commercial and industrial electrical works in Croydon and Teddington before progressing into increasingly more qualified engineering roles. His varied work included travelling the country winning electrical construction projects, leading the bid team to win a major contract upgrading power supplies on the railway network, enabling the upgrading and electrification of the railway network to enable the replacement of slam door trains, and working as the risk manager for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Britain’s biggest electricity distributor, UK Power Networks, is listed in the Sunday Times Best Big Companies to Work For. The company owns and maintains the electricity network which delivers power to 8.3 million homes and businesses across London, the South East and East of England.

In addition to career development for existing staff UK Power Networks continues to run apprenticeships, with new starters due to join in 2021.

1980 factfile: 

•UK inflation reached 17.99%, unemployment hit a 44-year high of 1.9 million and Britain was entering a deep recession

•Council tenants gained the right to buy their homes from their council at a discount, giving many families their first step on the housing ladder

•John Lennon was shot dead in New York and Pink Floyd’s album The Wall hit number one

•Smallpox was eradicated following a global immunisation programme led by the World Health Organisation

•23.5 million viewers tuned in to watch James Bond in Live and Let Die on ITV

•Permed hair, shoulder pads and bold colours were the fashion

•Post it notes were first introduced