Western Power Distribution

Western Power Distribution is an electricity distribution network operator employing around 1,000 people across south, west and mid Wales, 342 of whom are aged 50 or over.   “When you’re working with 132,000 volts you need a safe pair of hands,” said Phil Davies, WPD’s network services manager for Wales, who is retiring this year after 54 years with the company. “You don’t get many lifetime jobs any more but this industry has a track record of holding onto people.”

Les Davies, 67 is based at the firm’s Llanfihangel-ar-Arth depot.

The grandfather-of-two and father-of-three works five days a week, climbing 12-metre-high wooden poles as part of his job as an overhead linesman.

“In the recent storms I worked through the night until the early hours, climbing between the lightning,” said Les, who’s worked in the industry for 41 years and is grandfather to Louie and Lydia.

“Strong winds can blow trees onto lines and houses lose power so it’s my job to get it back as quickly as possible.

“Some people may think it’s scary being harnessed at the top of a pole in the middle of the night with a head torch, but I’m used to it.

“My workmates are roughly 40 years younger than me but they keep me young and my job keeps me fit.  We help each other out. Young people are sharp and learn quickly but so can I.  

“I use an iPad for work - it makes life easier. It’s a tough job but I love it and I’ve never wanted to leave. I love working outside and doing an important job.”

Phil Davies, his manager, said: “Les is well respected as a linesman in west Wales and brings long-term experience and knowledge which helps develop our apprentices and less experienced craftsmen, and provides a steadying influence in difficult situations.”

Phil, 69, based near Pontypridd, joined the company himself as a 15-year-old apprentice and has worked his way up to senior manager.   He added: “We have 16-year-olds working here, and at the other end, nobody gets pushed out when they reach 60. We also have a 71-year-old driving lorries. We all work as part of a team and there’s plenty of support to encourage people to continue working.”  

WPD staff are offered flexible working and the company, which has a long association with Age Cymru, spends millions of pounds training its teams.

“We invest just as much in our mature members of staff as we do our youngest recruits,” added Phil, who said older members of staff possessed a range of characteristics like dependability and trustworthiness and thrive in the industry. They can also teach the younger employees about customer service in what is a high-pressure industry, he said. 

“As you age in a company like ours, you develop maturity in dealing with people. Our older employees bring a calming influence, which is what you need when you’re sometimes dealing with emergency situations.   “Technology is advancing too and we’re developing apps and are working with smart data which needs to be taught. Indeed, much of our on-site training is performed by some of our long serving staff members because they have the knowledge and expertise.”

Phil said WPD continues to attract people of all-ages to what is an ‘exciting and changing’ industry. “We have people joining us later in life who want a change of career - whether they’re ex-military personnel or applying for our apprenticeship schemes.   “We encourage people to develop and we train them to become engineers, managers or whatever they want to be, irrespective of their age.”