Plain sailing for engineer Courtney

Courtney Bird

THIS week’s My Kind of Job is Courtney Bird, apprentice mechanical engineer at the Port of Larne.

What’s your job?

I am an apprentice fitter and mechanical engineer at the Port of Larne.

How did you get there?

Following GCSEs I applied to Larne Skills Development (LSD) and began a City & Guilds in Engineering.

LSD placed me in Larne Port as a trainee for three days a week and after just six months and a lot of support and encouragement from them they offered me a three year apprenticeship. I have now completed Levels 1 and 2 in my City & Guilds in Engineering and I am working towards Level 3 with just one further year of training to complete.

Do you have a typical working day?

No not really and that’s one of the things I love about what I do. I work across a variety of projects around the port including the weighbridge and general maintenance and while some jobs are repetitive I am never doing the same thing day after day.

What qualifications do you have?

I have Essential Skills Levels 1 &2 in Maths, English and ICT. I achieved several GCSEs including science and construction. I have completed Levels 1 and 2 of my City and Guilds in Engineering and will complete Level 3 within a year.

What other skills do you need in your role?

Health and safety in and around Larne Port is paramount so we have to have a sound working knowledge of that.

I also work in a tight knit team of 12 that include electricians and carpenters so being a team player is really important. I am also developing great welding skills and loving that too.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I love the fact that I am doing something different every day and I am outside a lot which is great, especially on a summer’s day when the Port is looking beautiful.

And the worst?

Being outside in the cold winter weather!

What do you think are the greatest challenges/pressures of the job?

One of our teams’ priorities is working to ensure the Port’s busiest ramp, which is used by P&O Ferries, is kept in excellent working order so that all traffic – whether freight or leisure – can get on and off the ferry safely and efficiently.

P&O Ferries has up to seven sailings per day between Larne and Cairnryan. With more than 200,000 lorries and trailers carried in the last year and 400,000 tourists and families travelling on the route – there’s a great deal of pressure to ensure we keep things working smoothly. We’re proud of the fact that 95 per cent of sailings depart on time and we work to keep it that way.

What did you want to be when you were at school?

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do and I did apply for a few different things including a beauty course, but I just knew it wasn’t for me. Having been here for just over a year I am very happy and want to continue my career in engineering.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in your profession?

Explore all your options and if you have an interest in something just go for it. Work hard, ask questions, watch others you admire and learn all you can. An apprenticeship has definitely been the right route for me and I would highly recommend it. I have also been so lucky to have found a very supportive team here at Larne Port – they even built loos especially for me as I am the only woman on the team.

What’s the most common question people ask when they find out what you do?

The two most common questions they ask are: Why did you pick engineering? and do you not find it hard with being the only girl?

How do you like to relax outside work?

I love socialising with family and friends, heading for days out across Northern Ireland, especially venturing out on long walks – I just love the outdoors.