Learning at Work Week: John Harkin

This week our team will be joining with businesses up and down the country to highlight the impact of a positive learning and development culture for Learning at Work Week. In a series of articles in the coming days, we talk to some of our team members about why continual learning has been important to them. We start with Principal Fire Engineer John Harkin who shares his thoughts…

OFR is great, and I love working in a culture which encourages people to continually develop their knowledge, with opportunities that are rewarding and beneficial to us as engineering professionals. 

Most recently, I was afforded the opportunity to undertake a course on Passive Fire Protection (PFP) with the Associate for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP). Thanks to its online learning platform, I was able to take the Level 2 foundation course in PFP. The course allowed me to develop my knowledge on PFP by addressing specific categories which are most relevant to myself and the work which I do daily. In addition to gaining a greater understanding on PFP, the course provided reassurance that my current level of understanding and the advice I had provided previously was correct. 

Through this course, I feel more confident when being questioned by our clients and contractor partners on details relating to PFP, allowing me to deliver projects to a higher standard than I believe I could have done before.

Although I have personally benefited by participating in the PFP course, within OFR I believe there to be a culture whereby every one of my colleagues is approachable, encouraging questions to be asked when I feel further knowledge or guidance is required. In addition to one-to-one conversations, within our business there are several specialist technical and focus groups which have been set up to place an emphasis on areas which OFR feel are of specific importance within fire engineering. Members of each respective group are considered suitably skilled in the aspects of fire engineering relevant to the group’s focus, and with these being known amongst the company, it is easy for any engineer to identify to whom they should speak when help is required.

I feel that continuous learning is important at this  stage in my career, as within the fire engineering sector, to deliver projects to the necessary high standard it is essential to continually develop your knowledge. Within the industry which we work in, guidance is forever changing to reflect the evolution of knowledge of fire safety within the built environment. Without continuous learning, I do not believe it would be possible for engineers like myself to support projects to the required level in the future as current understandings quickly become outdated and no longer considered best practice, or to the extreme, acceptable from an engineering perspective. I believe that at any point in my career, continuous learning will remain applicable, irrespective of the position I hold, especially as I lead junior engineers and future talent, by example.