Helping our colleagues through the OFR Technical Institute: Part 1

We were recently shortlisted for an award in recognition of our support for colleagues’ personal development. This week we are launching a new series of blogs, in which colleagues tell us about their experiences with the OFR Technical Institute – and how the unique inhouse training facility helps them develop their knowledge and skills.

Today we start with Bianca Coutinho who​ joined the business in 2021 and has recently been promoted from graduate to fire engineer. She has previously worked within the in fire engineering field with businesses internationally in Brazil and Ireland. Here she tells us more… 

Bianca Coutinho

The OFR Technical Institute was established in 2021 by our business’ research leader, Mike Spearpoint. With a consultancy and academic background, having also worked in New Zealand and the US, Mike was well placed to develop this programme and it has become a key pillar in OFR’s development of fundamental technical knowledge for all colleagues. It has been created to enable a better understanding of topics that may not be addressed within engineering education or day-to-day project work, across all roles.

As a bespoke course, it consists of three modules per quarter and is accessed by colleagues across all of our seven offices. It also provides a refresher for those with a formal background in fire engineering and allows staff to be more confident in their technical skills by investigating new topics. The content combines training resources, live sessions and technical debate between participants.

Not all new fire engineers come from a fire engineering education background. In fact, many come from  very different backgrounds, with limited knowledge about fire science, but with some valuable experiences from other sectors. This enhances the need for a training programme within businesses to introduce fire science in a more practical way, so that fire engineers can easily corelate the scientific basis with its application in the industry – which are the “whys”.

Personally, I enjoy the Technical Institute modules because they act as a medium for refreshing my memory, as it is mostly a revision of the subjects that I had studied during my Master’s degree. However, it is even more useful as the content links the theory with the practice within the business. One of the modules I have enjoyed the most was about smoke management and control. The most valuable outcome from all the modules was to improve understanding of the fire science concepts and how to relate them to the recommendations in guidance and alternative fire engineering approaches. This helps us to apply the principles with more confidence, knowing where they come from and what their limitations are.

I enjoy working at OFR as at the same time that it is challenging, it is also engaging,  and rewarding. OFR’s collaborative and supportive culture has a great positive impact in maximizing individual’s growth and achievements, which reverberates back to the success of the whole business, and I really appreciate that.