How a sailing experience turned on a new light

Andy Carter-Fea is a Shift Operations Technician, based at Hull. He may have chosen a different career in the radio industry were it not for the chance of a life-time offered to him thirty years ago by BP’s Schools Link programme

In 1986, at the age of seventeen, Andy had a unique opportunity to undertake a BP-sponsored two-week trip on the STS Malcolm Millar, a sail training ship that offered voyages aimed at increasing leadership skills for the individuals taking part. The opportunity was sponsored by the BP Schools Link programme run from the Easington terminal.

Applying for the placement involved a strict selection process, which included an interview with a panel followed by a trip to London to board the ship and then two weeks working as a part of the on-board team. Andy’s work covered all the duties required to run the ship on a 24-hour basis, from looking out for other ships and beacons, to hauling the sails, cooking for the rest of the crew and even scrubbing the decks. The work was tough, the hours long and the behaviour disciplined, but it taught Andy how to interact in a professional team, where each role had a direct impact on the safety and performance of the others.

Part of the experience was for the young trainees to document their time aboard and to identify how they had developed their skills. Andy wrote candidly in his diary: “The trip taught me many things about myself, some I liked but many I didn’t. I found out there were things I could do that surprised me. It was an excellent training exercise to teach you to work as part of a team.”

Of his skills he said: “The hardest job was pulling the ropes and the necessity to work as a team soon proved itself. It was pointless heaving at your own pace otherwise the sail went nowhere. But if you worked as a team, the sail went up faster and the ship moved.”

As a result of his experience aboard STS Malcolm Millar, Andy applied to work for BP as a shift laboratory technician in 1991. He has been employed by the company ever since in roles including shift manufacturing technician and communications officer. Andy’s current role sees him working as part of a close knit shift team operating one of BP’s world scale petrochemical plants.

Throughout his time in BP, Andy has been passionate about engaging students in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and the career opportunities available with a STEM background. In 2006, he became the Withernsea High Schools Link Ambassador (his old school) and then spent four years as the coordinator for all schools activity in Hull.

“For me, the Schools Link experience on-board the ship turned on a light. I also had family connections with BP as my grandfather worked at BP’s Saltend site until 1972. The experience demonstrated to me that BP valued its interactions with young people and had a forward vision of the critical importance of youth in the future development of the company as not only its own future workforce, but also the STEM workforce for years to come.”
Andy Carter-Fea

Going back into my old school felt a little strange at first but it was lovely to be able to help the students of today as they make their choices in relation to their own career paths in very much the same way as the Team at Easington helped me.

In addition, the trip on the Malcolm Miller sparked an interest in working to help others in the form of becoming a Coastguard Rescue Officer in 1993, based at Hull, a role that Andy continues to carry out.

And as for the career in the radio industry well although Andy has no regrets of the choice he made to take up a career in STEM with BP he still does have a passion for radio and has worked for a number of stations over the last 20 years and currently volunteers regularly at Beverley FM, a local Community Radio Station in East Yorkshire.

“I have been very lucky so far with my career opportunities in BP and am currently concentrating on refreshing my skills set as a Shift Operations Technician. Looking further ahead I am sure that new and exciting opportunities will continue to present themselves and with each opportunity comes the chance to develop via a myriad of new skills and experiences.“

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