Meet some of the team who have been supporting communities in Somerset through Coronavirus.

From responding to gas emergencies to discovering new ways of learning in lockdown, we’ve adapted to a new normal.

Veronika Csaunerova

Veronika Csaunerova, an Operational Assistant, has been working throughout the pandemic but quickly adapted to homeworking after the initial lockdown in March was announced.

Veronika, who usually works out of our Bridgwater depot, explains:

“My job involves looking after all the noticing across Somerset and north Somerset, working in partnership with the local authorities to make sure we have the right permissions to allow us to work in the road: upgrading the gas network, making new connections and carrying out gas emergency work. I also support the team who work out of the depot, and our local Training Academy, which is next door.

“When lockdown happened, we immediately switched from office to home working. I took some files, which I knew would be important, but our systems allow us to work from anywhere.

“I guess I’m different to a lot of other people as I live on my own so get the time to concentrate purely on my job.

“I have really enjoyed working from home as there aren’t the usual distractions. Saying that I am missing the buzz of the office and the benefits of those face-to-face relationships with colleagues.”

Jack Taviner

Our apprentices were mid-way through their theory and practical learning when the Coronavirus pandemic resulted in the UK-wide lockdown in March. With apprentice training usually split between our own training academies in Treforest and Bridgwater and practical experience as a gas engineer, learning swiftly moved online.

Working with training provider, Utilise, the Wales & West Utilities Learning & Development team developed online training through Microsoft Teams to create a virtual classroom for all apprentices. Due to the innovative and versatile manner in which Teams can be used, instructors were able to share videos, podcasts and presentations, as well as setting tasks for apprentices to complete and upload during the lesson.

Despite initial reservations from some, the reaction from those taking part in the programme has been positive.

Jack Taviner, 19 and from Winscombe, was nearing the end of his first-year apprenticeship, learning the skills needed to look after the pipes that keep the gas flowing to homes and businesses. Prior to lockdown he spent three-week blocks working from the Bridgwater depot and the company’s training facility in Treforest, south Wales. He said:

“When lockdown was announced Wales & West Utilities were quick to get things in place to make sure that our training continued seamlessly. We all had access to laptops and our learning schedule swiftly moved online.

“We quickly got to grips with the new way of learning and were still able to work virtually with the other apprentices in our groups.

“When we are in the training academy we would be concentrating more on the practical side of things, but this switched to cover theory. This now means that when I go out and work in the field, I am able to put everything I have learnt into practice.

“The trainers have been great in providing supplementary handouts, whilst they can also control our screens so that we are able to see exactly what is happening – which means it’s similar to the classroom environment.

“It was a smooth transition and I quickly got used to this way of working. It’s helped me continue my apprenticeship and has been a good way to keep occupied in Lockdown!

“When I’d started out as an apprentice, never did I think I’d be learning at home for the best part of a year but it’s still been fun – and I’m looking forward to taking the next step in my career.”

Andrew Falber

Andrew Falber is one of the many gas engineers who have been acting as key workers throughout the pandemic. Andrew, an Emergency Gas Engineer, is part of the team working to keep communities across Somerset safe.

He explains how his job did not change and him and his colleagues have remained focussed on responding to gas emergencies:

“We respond to gas emergencies, keeping local people and communities safe. Throughout the pandemic our work has remained the same. We continue to work around the clock:  keeping the gas flowing and people safe and warm in their own homes.

“To do our work we have to enter people’s homes so we’re taking extra steps to protect customers and colleagues alike. This includes washing our hands with soap and water or using hand sanitiser before entering and wearing face coverings and eye protection in your home. And we may ask you to open windows and stand in another room while we’re working.

“For us it’s business as usual and to be able to go to work, in the normal way as a keyworker, has kept me occupied and given me a great sense of pride in playing a small part in keeping communities safe during Coronavirus.”