Thursday 2nd September 2021 – Vol 001 Edition 00012
by Jim Campbell
‘Fitters’ study drawings, plans, specifications, and blueprints to fit, assemble, and shape machinery parts and other equipment. There are different types of Fitters, including General Fitters, Mechanical Fitters, Maintenance Fitters, and Fitters and Turners.
Leanne Furlong is the profile for Edition 12 in my ‘A Day in the Life oft series. A native of Ramsgrange in County Wexford, she is in her third phase as an Apprentice Fitter with Kent Stainless, in which the duration of the apprenticeship is four years.
In Phases Two and Four of the training, the apprentice attends their nearest college. To this end, Leanne attends WIT in Waterford. During Phases One and Three, the young trainee is in Kent Stainless.
Kent Stainless was founded as a small General Engineering Company in the early 1980s by Pat Kent. Since then, the company has become a leading manufacturer and global exporter of stainless-steel products and has been manufacturing engineered products customised to suit projects designed by Architects and Consulting Engineers.
Starting in Wexford, Ireland, the company now exports many products to the UK, Middle East, Europe, and the USA. There is a large workforce of over one hundred and sixty employees, including Metal Fabricators, Sheet Metal Workers, Fitters, Designers, and Sales and Administrative staff, all based in a modern factory located in Ardcavan on the outskirts of Wexford town.
I wasn’t aware of any females working hands-on in the engineering industry, i.e., welding, fitting, etc; I think it’s fantastic. I met up with Leanne in her place of work recently to discuss a day in her working life as a Fitter.
Leanne was always hands-on, cutting cardboard with scissors
Leanne was always hands-on, cutting cardboard with scissors, making things, etc. During her schooldays, her dream was to become an Art Teacher. In her fifth year, Leanne had the opportunity to do both Art and Metalwork.
As a fifth-year student exploring various career options, Leanne attended Open Days in many colleges, looking at several different courses. On a school trip to FAS in Waterford, the Ramsgrange Community School student wandered through the other stands observing many courses on view during the FAS Open Day.
“did my research. I liked what I saw”
After observing several stands on display, she became keen on the ‘Fitting’ course. Still undecided, Leanne did her research, gathering information from the many websites about the trade.
“I went on the school trip and looking around at all these different courses. There wasn’t much interest. Then I came across the ‘Fitters’ course. I thought to myself ‘l like that one’. I displayed an interest in it. So, I went home and did my research. I liked what I saw so I decided that I would do some work experience in it.”
Leanne did two weeks of work experience in the Great Island Power Station during her Fifth Year Easter break from school. During this practicum, she liked the idea of dismantling things and all the other aspects of it.
“I applied for the course, and I haven’t looked back since.”
She attended the FAS Open Day again in her Sixth Year in order to ask further questions and gain more information. “I asked the instructor many questions. I liked what I heard, and decided to give it a go. I applied for the course, and I haven’t looked back since.”
Following an interview with Kent Stainless, Leanne was offered a six-week trial. After the six-week trial, Leanne was offered an apprenticeship with the Engineering Company. Leanne is currently in the third phase of her training.
Work commences at eight in the morning for the young trainee. Following her clocking-in process, Leanne makes her way to her workplace.
After switching on her welder and opening her toolbox, Leanne is now ready to progress into whatever project she worked on the previous day. “I will either start a new job or continue the job that I was doing the previous day.”
Leanne is currently working on Curved Slot Channels. Throughout the day, the young apprentice is working on a project. Depending on the project, it could take anywhere between days and weeks to complete the order.
Using a drill is another factor in Leanne’s job description. “If it was maybe lids, they might need to have holes drilled in them or counter-sink them. That would be part of my job for a couple of hours”.
“I would then bring them to my bay to put it all together.”
Planning the project is an essential part of the trainee’s job. “If I were to start a new job, I would go to my supervisor Eamon Donoghue. I would ask him for a new job. He would then bring up the necessary drawings and paperwork that I would need for that particular job. I would then go and look for the materials and parts that I would need. I would then bring them to my bay to put it all together.”
Studying the drawings or blueprints of a specific project enables Leanne to understand the layout and assists her in putting the entire project together. “You have to be able the read the drawings, know what parts you will need. They are all code-numbered. Know how to put them together – the drawing does provide that information.”
When Leanne is given a project from her supervisor, she is also given a deadline for completing the job. If the project is too big for one person to meet the deadline, help is always there and she will receive assistance from other Fitters/Welders.
‘Dipping’ is a process where the project is sent out to be dipped in an acid bath. This acid clears the item of all the burnt marks caused by the welding. Now and again, there is a sleeve that must go on the end of a channel.
Following the welding of both parts, each is dipped separately. Then they are returned to the Fitter to be joined together, usually using pop rivets. From there, the project is inspected and sent to be packed for delivery.
Another part of Leanne’s job description with Kent Stainless is turning flat sheets into pipes. The sheets are cut out to a specific size, and the edges are pre-rolled by putting them over a curved edge. Once it is set, it’s then put through a roller – three massive cylinders are mechanically operated by a foot pedal. Once it is rounded into a pipe shape, it is then welded.
Leanne loves the ‘hands-on approach and that you are always learning.
“There is not a day that you come in here that you don’t walk away without learning something. I love the hands-on approach. I have upgraded from the cardboard and scissors!”
Leanne’s advice to students: “Keep your mind open, be open to all options. Don’t rule out apprenticeships. You will come out fully qualified after your four years of training. You have a global recognition on your CV that you can work with anywhere in the world. If you are practical rather than theoretical, then an apprenticeship is the way to go. Research your workplace and make sure that they are registered with FAS. Make your decision and then apply to that workplace.”
she was the owner of a lovely pink toolbox!
There is one interesting fact about Leanne’s toolbox that you might like to know. When she was given the list of required tools, she bought a blue toolbox and a tin of spray paint. When she had finished with the spray paint, she was the owner of a lovely pink toolbox!
My sincere thanks to Leanne Furlong (Apprentice Fitter, Kents Stainless), Ann O’Brien (Management Director, Kents Stainless), Michelle Busher (HR, Kents Stainless), Noeleen Wilson (Receptionist, Kents Stainless) and Rev Conor O’Reilly. Much appreciated JC
All Images and Original Text © All Rights Reserved-Jim Campbell 2021
About the author
Jim Campbell is an Irish photographer, freelancer and photojournalist. Campbell has being contemporary photographer for more than two decades.
A native of Wexford town in the south-east of Ireland, Campbell studied photography in the Dublin Institute of Technology before going to work with a newspaper.
Since 1998 he has been working with local and national papers in Ireland and the UK. His work has appeared in publications globally including newspapers, magazines and online publications.
In 2013 Campbell made his first of what would become many trips to the conflict areas of the world. To observe more on Jim’s work vist the link to his website below.