Quality manager chooses a quality course!

Case Study: David Puntan

After working for 30 years in high-risk industries, Quality Manager David Puntan took the NEBOSH General Certificate to back up the health and safety knowledge he had gained through experience.

David, I can see that the main focus of your career was accountancy. For nearly 30 years you worked as a Business Controller. Did you enjoy this?

My career started in the early 1980’s when I joined the 5000 strong workforce at the BP Llandarcy refinery in South Wales. Initially, my role was accounting for an operating refinery, but within a short period of time, there was an announcement that Llandarcy was one of the refineries BP planned to close.

My role therefore changed to working on a demolition, remediation, and re-development project, which saw the site transformed into a new sustainable urban village, Coed Darcy. During its construction we were accountable to the Welsh Development Agency and the Prince’s Foundation. It was a challenging but rewarding role given the scale of the project, which included the construction of 4,000 homes and 53,000 sqm of additional development. Decisions needed to be made quickly, whilst still working within a budget and considering the safety and well-being of those involved in each stage of the closure project.

You seem to have combined this important role with teaching on business and accountancy courses. How did this happen?

It came about because of my involvement as a School’s Link Officer for BP’s Education and Employers Inspiring the Future Programme. This programme aimed to encourage young people to consider pursuing a career in the construction and industrial sectors.

For me personally, my involvement sparked my imagination about what I could personally do for the industries and professions that had rewarded and developed my career. With the support of BP, I took my Further Education Teaching Certificate, together with my Assessors and Internal Quality Awards. This led to me teaching evening classes in Accountancy and on the teaching programme whilst still working for BP. I combined both of these enjoyable roles for 15 years.

When my time at BP came to an end, I was able to transition over into training and education because of the immense experience I had already gained.

Do you enjoy sharing your knowledge and mentoring others?

Personally, I am a firm believer in sharing knowledge, experience, and mentoring. Whether I mentor a colleague or student, seek out a mentor for myself or put in place my own personal support system, it has a tremendous positive impact. 

Most of us long to leave a legacy and what is better than shaping tomorrow’s leaders? Knowing you are making a difference to someone else’s life is so rewarding and is a key part of what we do as educators. 

2020 was a strange year for us all! I believe you took the opportunity to focus on your own personal development and completed the NEBOSH General Certificate. Why did you pick this qualification in particular?

Having worked for 30 years in a high-risk industry I had an appreciation of health and safety, but no formal qualification to substantiate this. I chose to take the NEBOSH General Certificate because, in my opinion, it is the benchmark for the industry, which has helped many people to develop and then pursue a Health and Safety career. 

I felt that gaining the knowledge would not only help me personally, but it would also mean I could better support the learners at the training provider I now work for.

I joined a course delivered by my employer and really enjoyed it. It was great to mix with the other learners and we all benefited from the tutor’s wealth of theory and practical knowledge in health and safety. At the end of the course I felt well prepared for the assessments.

How did you find the open book examination (OBE)?

I have previously sat exams under traditional invigilated conditions. I was apprehensive and strangely excited by the challenge of sitting my first OBE. Historically my style of studying, was to memorise facts so I could repeat them in the exam. It was clear this approach would not work for the OBE as I needed to understand and be able to apply everything on exam day. Reflecting on the experience, the OBE approach was more constructive and more realistic to the real working environment.

Given your experience of other vocational exams how did you think the general certificate and its assessment methodology compares?

They are very similar in that they are both assessing the individual’s competence and underpinning knowledge and understanding in a realistic way.

Can you tell us about your current role?

I am the Quality Manager for Alpha Safety. The most important part of my role is around quality of performance, ensuring all business operations comply with statutory requirements. In addition, I monitor, review, and evaluate the quality of our assessment processes and practices to ensure Awarding Body standards are maintained. I liaise with the various Awarding Bodies we work with to seek and maintain qualification approval.

I have a responsibility to ensure that we support every person to achieve their potential. We want them to gain knowledge so that they can progress in their career.

What do you enjoy most about it?

Throughout my career I have looked for ways to help and support people who want to develop, and this role means I get to do this every day! It is so rewarding to enable students to improve their knowledge and obtain qualifications, which helps them secure employment or progress. Ultimately, we equip our learners to make a difference to the health, safety and welfare in their working environment.

I suppose you could say my personal motivation matches the mission of my employer to provide quality training that will make a difference.  

What advice would you give to someone isn’t currently working in health and safety but wants to? 

I would recommend that the first step should be to gain the NEBOSH National General Certificate. It provides a broad understanding of many health and safety topic, which should help you secure an entry level role. Once you have achieved this look for every opportunity to gain experience and develop your knowledge and competence on the job.