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From apprentice to boardroom

Almost 30 years have passed since Ewen Kerr walked out of Oldmachar Academy into the big wide world. He had wanted to work . . . something engineering-related; ideally training to become a draftsman. The North Sea seemed logical; after all it had been booming, only his timing was awful as the province had just been hit hard in the 1986 oil price crash. “My father was head engineer at John M Henderson’s here in Aberdeen,” recalls Kerr. “So maybe it was a genetic thing. But with the North Sea in recession, I couldn’t get a job. I ended up working in a bank for a year or two as it was all that was available.

“I had done my Highers and I could have gone to university but I wanted to work. I made that choice. Whether it was right, well, you can look back and wonder. But I’ve done OK.

“The career advice I got wasn’t very good . . . and that was to go and work in a bank because I couldn’t get a technical job. And to be honest, looking back, banking was a really good grounding. I even started doing my banking exams . . . economics, finance, that sort of thing; a good grounding for running a business.

“I hated it but it was a really good grounding. But eventually I got the opportunity of joining Sparrows as an apprentice in 1987.”

At that stage there were probably around 400 working at the company. Kerr had joined the engineering team together with one other youngster. They were the company’s first engineering design apprentices and did day-release, secured their ONCs and HNCs and getting qualified after four years, with heavy exposure to the offshore industry along the way.

To view the full interview on the Energy Voive website, click here.

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