The one and only health and safety apprentice?

Case Study: Lee Broadbent- Calderdale MBC

According to figures from the House of Commons, around 120,000 people under the age of 19 start their working careers as an apprentice in England every year. But what about health and safety? How many school leavers find a full time Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) role through an apprenticeship programme?

In fact, Lee Broadbent and his employers Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC) say they have done quite a bit of asking around and they don’t know of any other health and safety personnel who began their career as a school-leaving apprentice.

Lee joined Calderdale MBC at the age of 18 four years ago, after gaining four A levels. His Grades were two A stars, one A and one B, but he surprised everyone by deciding not to go to university and to look for an apprenticeship instead.

“It’s difficult as a young person applying for jobs, because employers want experience,” Lee told us. “But how can you get experience if nobody will offer you a job?”

The apprenticeship programme he joined was the brainwave of Health and Safety Manager, Martin Allingham, who became aware of the council’s HR department bringing in a new influx of apprentices. “None of the candidates were aware that one of the positions would be in health and safety,” explained Martin. “However, I knew exactly what I was looking for and Lee matched the profile perfectly. He was confident, intelligent, and most importantly he obviously had a good way with people, something which is hugely important in the role.”

When Lee was offered the apprenticeship he was a little apprehensive at first. But he recognised that it would be very different to anything else on offer at the council, and after a bit of persuasion from his parents he accepted the position.

Martin’s instincts proved to be well founded. Lee settled in immediately and found he particularly enjoyed the variety the apprenticeship offered. For several months Lee shadowed Martin and other senior members of the team, until he was gradually given more and more responsibilities.

“The big thing for us in health and safety really is trust. You have to build up that rapport with the managers and the people you work with, so that they trust you to deliver, basically. We’ve built up this safety culture over many years with a really trusting team.”

At this point, both Lee and Martin decided he should gain a suitable qualification. Both agreed that given his educational background he should jump straight into the degree equivalent NEBOSH National Diploma in Health and Safety.

“Although the Diploma is an academic qualification, it is hugely important in terms of practical application,” said Lee. “It’s not all just text book. It works perfectly when you are developing your experience. You pick up so much as an apprentice from the Diploma. It’s the backbone to a health and safety career really.”

Lee successfully completed the Diploma in July 2016. He has been granted Certified IOSH status and has started his IPD to become chartered. He sits on the committee of IOSH’s Yorkshire branch and has just received the Jeff Marsh Award for Occupational Health and Safety Young Person of the Year. An initiative run by the North Manchester Health and Safety Advisory Group, part of Safety Groups UK. Not bad for someone aged just 22!

He has now progressed to the position of full-time Health and Safety Advisor and according to Martin is destined for bigger things. He is already effectively leading a stress management programme at Calderdale MBC and recently made a presentation to the IOSH Yorkshire branch about young people entering the profession. He is also proving to be a perfect role model and shows the benefits of health and safety apprenticeships to employers and individuals.

“One of the key points that I raised when I gave these presentations, was the fact that the health and safety profession is dominated by the older heads, I try to encourage people to go down that route and for employers to give people a chance and get the benefits out of them. When I go to meetings people get shocked that I’m in my twenties and they are expecting a 50 year old!”

“My apprenticeship has given me a lot of practical experience and through my NEBOSH Diploma I already have a strong CV. I hope more employers open their eyes to the benefits of taking on a health and safety apprentice and give more young people a chance. If they support them like I have been supported, they might be pleasantly surprised!”