Leaving the RAF

Leaving the RAF


After leaving the RAF after 38 years service, one of RISKs most successful health and safety trainers, David Pettitt, explains his journey to ‘civvy’ street and becoming a health and safety professional.

RAF Service Retirement – David Pettitt (Royal Air Force TG3 Warrant Office Retired)

Like many of my associates in the RAF, I joined to escape the limited employment options within my home town. Where I lived was all heavy engineering and what I was really interested in was electronics. With a passion for aircraft, and the RAF offering electrical and electronic apprenticeships - I decided to apply and was successful. I started my full time apprenticeship training on the 4th January 1967, which I completed in December 1968. I then served until I reached my 55th birthday, which is when compulsory retirement kicks in.

I served until compulsory retirement kicked in

My penultimate tour in the Royal Air Force was a 3-year stint with NATO at JHQ Stavanger in Norway and on completion of this posting I would only have 18-months left to serve on my return to the UK. My wife and I had decided to purchase our first house prior to the commencement of this tour, which we rented out for the 3 year period (covered the mortgage payment); we now had somewhere to live when my service career ended, but I would need to continue to work after discharge as we still had 7 years to run on our mortgage.

Whilst in Norway, at the 2-year point before discharge, I registered for resettlement, however, in practical terms there was very little I could do as there was no funding for me to travel back to UK to attend resettlement briefings and courses. On our return to UK in the October of 2003 I was fortunate enough to get a posting to RAF Digby a 25 mile commute from the house that we had purchased.

None of my qualifications appeared to be recognised by potential civilian employers

Although I had a plethora of engineering qualifications, other than a NEBOSH General Certificate I obtained whilst filling the post of deputy Station Health and Safety Officer at RAF Locking some years earlier, none of my qualifications appeared to be recognised by potential civilian employers. So I started attending any relevant resettlement briefings and applied for various courses. I always had an interest in financial services so I undertook a distance learning course and passed the exams to become a qualified financial advisor and mortgage advisor. I then applied for a couple of vacancies and was successful in being selected for interviews, but potential employers were after younger people who they could mould into their established systems and procedures; a 55 year old senior engineering manager apparently did not fit this profile. Plan 1 out of the window.

I attended a few job fairs with CV in hand and talked to prospective employers

Plan 2 was to get a job using my technical skills and I attended a few job fairs with CV in hand and talked to prospective employers of engineering firms. The common theme I came away with was that they wanted people with high level qualifications to fill managerial or training positions, but did not want to pay a salary that matched; plan 2 not looking too good. During one of these fairs, I did get introduced to a Peterborough based Child Care Organisation that needed to replace their current health and safety training provider and was invited to an interview (health and safety being plan 3).

Another issue I discovered was that my military teaching qualification was not being recognised by potential employers, so I decided to rectify this and enrolled on a City and Guilds 7407 teaching certificate course and successfully completed Stage 1 which gave me the necessary qualification to teach adult students.

NEBOSH, IOSH and Construction Industry Training Board courses

Whilst attending a CV writing and Job Interview workshop the resettlement organisation running the event put me in contact with a company that were looking for self-employed health and safety trainers to teach NEBOSH, IOSH and Construction Industry Training Board courses. I subsequently attended an interview with Risk and Safety Management Services Ltd (RISK Ltd) that appeared to go well and I was invited to deliver a couple of one day of a NEBOSH course training sessions on a trial basis. I discussed with RISK other qualifications that would help me with job prospects and was advised that some construction health and safety qualifications would be useful. As part of my resettlement package, I duly completed a 5-day CITB Site Managers Safety Training Scheme course and then went on to successfully complete a 2-week NEBOSH Construction Certificate Course.

A self-employed health and safety consultant and trainer

When I finally started my terminal leave I had set myself up with HMRC as a self-employed health and safety consultant and trainer and was undertaking part-time training work for both RISK and the Peterborough Child Care organisation I had met at a Job Fair. This work arrangement continued for approximately 9-months, but when RISK lost one of their regular tutors, I was asked to step up my commitments with them; this quickly resulted in the majority of my work being for RISK, whilst still undertaking additional own client work to enable me to maintain my self-employed status.

As well as delivering training, which I enjoy, the scope of work I am now involved in

I have subsequently completed two NEBOSH Diploma Courses, one for health and safety and one for environmental management enabling me to raise my training day-rate for teaching. As well as delivering training, which I enjoy, the scope of work I am now involved in also encompasses the development of new courses and associate delegate handouts and undertaking consultancy work for RISK across a broad range of industries. For most of the time I am kept extremely busy and consequently have employed my wife to help me with the administration involved in running my business.

Are you leaving the forces and have questions?

Or have you recently left the forces and want to share your advice?

If so - give RISK a call and we’ll help you choose the right course to start your life on 'civvy' street.

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