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2020 / 2021 Edition

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Careers and Training in the Drilling and Blasting Sector

First published in the March 2018 issue of Quarry Management as Inspiring the Next Generation

For BAM Ritchies, their people are their business, which is why the company seeks to employ the best in the industry and continually invests in personal development by supporting the learning and development of skills and knowledge on the job. Four of the company’s drilling and blasting experts outline their career paths to date and provide an insight into the training and development opportunities available.

Charlene Geddes - Geotechnical engineer

Following graduation from Aberdeen University with a BSc (Hons) in Geography and Geoscience, Charlene Geddes embarked upon her career in engineering working as a geological data manager with DataCo Ltd. She then sought a more hands-on role at Jacobs as assistant geotechnical engineer before joining BAM Ritchies in 2014.

In her current role, Ms Geddes covers the Highlands and Grampian regions of Scotland and fires blasts primarily for aggregates but also for ornamental stone, the latter requiring a different amount of explosives and a change in the charge sequence. To date, the largest amount of aggregate material she has brought down in a single blast is 80,000 tonnes.

Last year she became the first female in the UK to gain the MPQC Level 3 Diploma in Shotfiring, an achievement she is particularly proud of. Ms Geddes is enthusiastic about her role; being fond of the outdoors, she enjoys travelling around the north of Scotland and the daily variety of her duties.

Recently, she achieved her MPQC Level 5 Certificate in Blast Design and is planning to work towards her Explosives Supervisor qualification. Looking to the future,
Ms Geddes says she has aspirations to broaden her experience in the extractives industry and one day hopes to be in charge of her own region.

Lewis Lloyd - Blasting engineer / VQ assessor

When Lewis Lloyd started out on his career journey he was not sure what he wanted to do. At school he excelled in joinery but there were not many apprenticeships at the time so he decided to become a panel beater. However, the company he worked for was taken over and he was forced to pursue an alternative career path, which led him into the extractives industry.

At the age of 21, Mr Lloyd joined BAM Ritchies as a trainee laser operator. He describes being hesitant at first but shortly after joining embarked on a NVQ in Shotfiring and has never looked back.

His journey with the company began on a stabilization project at Bardon Hill Quarry in the Midlands, working on drill and blast, and production. Following this Mr Lloyd moved on to one of BAM Ritchies most successful projects, the Glendoe Tunnel, where he took on the role of shotfiring foreman. This gave him the opportunity to work with the wider business on a large-scale project and learn how other departments work. He then went on to work at Glensanda Quarry, in the west of Scotland.

Continuing on his development journey he was then invited to join a team working in Tanzania, in East Africa, as quarry supervisor, and once again he jumped at the opportunity. Talking about this project in great depth, Mr Lloyd described the challenges in relation to operating in a different market, building and maintaining relationships, and the personal challenges of working far away from home. Nevertheless, he described this as the best project he has worked on so far and one that has given him great life experiences and a lot of opportunity to learn and develop skills and knowledge.

During his time with BAM Ritchies Mr Lloyd has not only worked on large-scale projects across the UK and on the continent, but has also developed himself professionally by completing the BAM Nuttall Supervisors Training Programme, which has helped him perform better in his role. He also holds an MPQC Level 3 Diploma in Shotfiring, an MPQC Level 5 Diploma in Shotfiring Supervision and is an Engineering Technician member of The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3).

Now supervising a group of quarries across south-west Scotland, Mr Lloyd also supports others with their personal development as a VQ assessor.

George Chalmers - Foreman driller

Starting his career at the age of 16, George Chalmers joined Crush Rock Ltd as a shotfirer’s assistant, but at 18 decided to move into drilling. A fourth-generation driller, he quickly picked up the skills to operate various drill rigs and achieved NVQs in both Quarry Drilling and Lead Driller Anchoring, and from there progressed to supervisor. After working in many quarries and civil contracts across the UK and Ireland, Mr Chalmers embarked on his career at BAM Ritchies as a driller.

Employed for his versatility in drilling and his knowledge of drill rigs, he quickly got to grips with his role and built relationships with the team. Keen to progress and develop, Mr Chalmers took on the role of training others in the team, becoming the ‘go to’ driller for those requiring further support and participating in a steering group reviewing the drillers’ training programme.

He is now passing on his experience to a group of drillers at Hinkley Point C, to ensure they get the best out of the company’s fleet of rigs.

Diane Christie - Senior blasting engineer

Having graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an Honours degree in Geophysics, Diane Christie started her career with BAM Ritchies in 2007 as a laboratory assistant before moving into Ground Investigation, where she worked as an assistant geotechnical engineer at the Olympic Park, in Stratford, London. She was then promoted to geotechnical engineer and worked on a variety of projects including the Beauly to Denny power line scheme and, more recently, HS2.

After delivering a number of successful Ground Investigation projects, in 2016
Ms Christie decided it was time for a change of career path and joined the Drill & Blast team as a trainee shotfirer. Since joining the team she has developed knowledge in laser surveying and quarry face profiling, and assisted with shotfiring operations. She says she enjoys the variety of the role in a supportive team where everyone works together to resolve issues and ensure they deliver the best service to clients.

Throughout her career with BAM Ritchies, Ms Christie has strived to develop herself. She has recently completed the Supervisory Training Programme and is currently undertaking an MPQC Level 5 Certificate in Blast Design, which will allow her to supervise blasts. She has also recently embarked on BAM Nuttall’s Emerging Leaders programme, which is designed to provide a toolkit for new managers and leaders within the business. She also is an Associate member of the IOM3 and a member of the Institute of Quarrying.

Anthony Elgey, general manager of MP Futures (part of MPQC), said: ‘BAM Ritchies are a committed employer who readily invest in their employees to ensure they have the relevant competence-based vocational qualifications and MPQC are proud to be a partner organization in their staff-development programmes. We also applaud all the work that BAM Ritchies are doing to attract young people into the industry.’

The Drill & Blast team at BAM Ritchies employs 78 skilled extractive and explosives experts from varied backgrounds with lengths of service ranging from 1 month to 41 years – the average being 14 years. This, together with the company’s continuous investment in training and qualifications, clearly demonstrates that a career path exists for anyone who wants to join an industry that offers plenty of opportunities to learn and develop.

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