Forty years and still going strong

Back in 1981 the big news of the day was the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, while shoppers were paying 20p for a pint of milk.

Forty years and still going strong

Pictured from left to right: Mark Sellwood, Phil Mortimore, Andy Gates and Dave Bradley.

Back in 1981 the big news of the day was the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, while shoppers were paying 20p for a pint of milk.

It was also a landmark year for four teenagers who were embarking on their careers at the ExxonMobil Fawley facility after being successful in securing sought-after apprenticeships.

This year marks an amazing 40 years’ service for Andy Gates, Mark Sellwood, Dave Bradley and Phil Mortimore.

Andy (56), Unit Maintenance Leader South Advisor, was “over the moon” when all those years ago he was told he was being kept on as a mechanical tech after his apprenticeship.

“I was offered a couple of apprenticeships, but my Mother told me I was to work for Esso because it was the best company – and she was right!

“There are not many parts of the site where I have not worked or supervised a team to repair equipment over my 40 years. I have had four different stints in Distillation in both maintenance and operations and I was also part of the original business team at Fawley back in 1999.

“My current job as UML Advisor means I help and advise on all aspects of maintenance repair work.

“I have enjoyed all the challenges which have come my way and have worked with some incredible people at Fawley over the years.”

Phil (56), Lab Lead Equipment Owner, from Southampton, has had a very difficult year after being seriously ill with Covid.

“I am still receiving treatment but I would like to be able to return to work,” he said.

He started out as a trainee electrician and recalls having to go along with his dad to sign his indenture papers for his apprenticeship.

“I had only just turned 16, and coming from school to this massive place was a real eye-opener,” he said.

“It’s great to see that the apprenticeship scheme is still going strong and youngsters are being given the same great opportunities that we had.”

Phil spent 10 years as an electrician then joined the analyser group, monitoring the day-to-day running of the plant, before joining the laboratory team on shift.

When his son was born he came off shifts and since then has been involved in the running of different labs.

“I am now involved in commissioning, implementing and repairing equipment and training others to operate it,” he added.

“Fawley today is very different to when I started and it was all male. Now there is a much more diverse workforce, which is to the plant’s benefit.”

Dave Bradley (56), Process Operator, was born in Hythe and lives in Bournemouth.

“In my second year as an apprentice pipefitter I was awarded the City and Guilds silver medal for the highest exam results in the UK, and that’s still my career highlight!” he joked.

He spent 14 years ‘on the tools’, covering all aspects of pipefitting, including fabrication in the days when the refinery had the largest workshops in Europe and made its own.

After more than two decades in maintenance, Dave transferred and is now in his 17th year as a Process Operator, working as a Permit Co-ordinator for the last six months.

“Running a distillation unit gives you a really good understanding of how all the chemistry works – turning the crude oil into all the different products we sell and distribute.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time at Fawley and it has enabled me to have a nice house by the sea and do lots of travelling with my family.”

Mark Sellwood (56), Contracts Co-ordinator, lives in Waterside, and is the fourth generation of his family to work at Fawley.

“I actually came to work here by accident because one of my friends applied for an apprenticeship but mucked up the form. He asked me to ask my dad to get him another and he got a couple. I gave him one and filled in the other myself and was successful!”

Mark started as a pipefitter and by 1990 was a first line supervisor at the young age of 24.

He moved around several different areas before being promoted to second line supervisor in 2009.

“I’ve worked on most of the site, from chemicals and utilities to planning and projects, and been to the USA as well as Singapore and Europe with the projects team,” he said.

“I have enjoyed the variety of my job and the sense of ownership it gives you. It is satisfying to replace big pieces of equipment and see a job through to the end.”