Meet the Team: Jim Donnelly, Senior Utilities Trainer

   29 September 2023         Blogs

On this month’s Meet the Team blog, we’re introducing our Senior Utilities Training Officer, Jim Donnelly.

Jim’s career journey began straight after leaving school when he joined a local authority to work within the construction field. He later joined British Gas as a Distribution Trainee, where he climbed the career ladder to take on several different roles including Assistant Distribution Fitter and Distribution Fitter during his 20 years with the company.

A long career in the gas industry

During his two decades, Jim worked on a number of large-scale construction projects as well as a series of emergency works and schemes. By the end of his time there he was working as a Main Layer.

Looking for a new challenge, Jim joined Develop back in July 2005 as a Trainee Trainer and has recently celebrated his 18-year anniversary with the company.

After taking on a range of managerial roles within the business, Jim is now a Senior Training Officer who provides compliance training for professionals working in the gas industry. His main areas of expertise are gas distribution, service laying and main laying. However, he also teaches a range of health & safety courses, and IOSH training, including the IOSH Managing Safely (IOSHMS) and IOSH Working Safely (IOSHWS) courses.

Alongside teaching, he also offers support to other trainers in the business, as well as the Utilities Delivery Manager, and he is responsible for working with delegates to help them build their portfolios.

Whilst Jim is based primarily at Develop’s training centre in Derby, his work takes him on the road to visit locations throughout the UK and he has recently spent a lot of time working on projects in Northern Ireland.

Training Terrace

Jim was heavily involved in the development of Develop’s Joint Emergency Training Set (JETSET), Training Terrace, a fully to-scale artificial street designed to safely recreate emergency response scenarios. Training Terrace allows delegates to simulate the experience of what it’s like to respond to a gas leak in a realistic yet secure environment and is located at our York centre.

An integral part of the Training Terrace project alongside Darren Hill and Daryll Garavan, Jim was able to share his knowledge and expertise and met with architects and designers to provide insight on what the needs of the gas industry were and how Develop could meet them with the new training facility.  

Highlights at Develop

Jim believes that his extensive career background allows him to relate to delegates when sharing his own life experiences and he enjoys reflecting on some of his highlights at the company to date.

Jim expands upon the importance of his background, explaining, “In the training world, establishing a genuine connection with the delegates by drawing from one’s own real-life experiences is truly invaluable. When they realise that I’ve walked the same path and have hands-on experience ‘in the trenches,’ so to speak, it garners a deep respect for my expertise. This connection not only facilitates the training process but also encourages delegates to pose questions they might hesitate to ask someone who hasn’t undergone the same experiences on the job.”

During the first few years at Develop, Jim delivered training to young offender students who could benefit from a new start with a career in the industry. A few years later, Jim was attending a trade show when he was approached by a man that he did not immediately recognise, who shook Jim’s hand and introduced himself. The man turned out to be one of the students that Jim had trained all those years ago and inspired by Jim’s training, the man became greatly interested in the gas industry, and went on to start his own business.

Worldwide travel

Another highlight is one of Jim’s favourite projects that he worked on in 2014. He was asked to join a project team on a visit to Israel where he worked with Pazgas, an energy company that markets liquid petroleum gas (LPG) in the country.

The project allowed him to work closely with employees at the company to identify their training needs and on return to the UK he worked with an external trainer to devise a training plan and materials that could be delivered company wide. Certainly an interesting and unique experience to be remembered!

Further resources

Visit our Resource Centre for a range of materials to help you plan and manage your utility training needs.

Visit our Gas Distribution page to see our full range of gas training courses.


Meet the Team: Darren Hill, Utility Trainer

   30 August 2023         Blogs

In this month’s meet the team blog, we’re shining the spotlight on our Utility Trainer, Darren Hill.

Establishing a career in the utilities industry

Darren started his working life as a self-confessed ‘jack-of-all-trades’ working in a range of different roles and environments including a suit shop and butchers as well as repairing pool tables and delivering materials for an engineering company.

He then joined the UK’s largest gas distribution network, Cadent, where he specialised in treating gas leaks in his role as Emergency Response Team Leader. Throughout his 20-year long career with the network, Darren gained experience in numerous aspects of the gas and utilities industry, which he is now able to draw upon when teaching.

However, as Darren’s responsibilities grew in this job, he was often challenged with completing long hours and even 24-hour shifts, which ultimately inspired him to make a change.

At this stage, Darren was living in Nottingham, which happened to only be a 30-minute drive from Develop’s Derby training centre. It was here that he had previously successfully achieved his gas qualifications before joining the Develop team in August 2018.

Life at Develop

Darren has now been based at Develop’s Derby centre for over five years as a Utility Trainer, working within a range of utility sectors, including gas and street works.

Whilst predominantly based in Derby, Darren often finds himself travelling to a range of different training centres located around the UK, from Northern Ireland, to York, to Brentwood – wherever he is needed!

He teaches across a number of Network Construction Gas (NCO) courses such as Service Laying and Main Laying, as well as NRSWA Street Works and Abrasive Wheels – Grinders and Cut-off Saws (AWGC) training.

Darren’s role also means that he is also responsible for assessing delegates’ portfolios and supporting them to achieve their qualifications. This can often mean that Darren takes them from the start of their journey when they complete their initial qualification through to when they return and take additional courses to add to their skills.

With Darren’s decades of experience in the field, delegates receive training direct from somebody who has been in the real-life scenarios that he’s teaching others about and has first-hand knowledge of the challenges that delegates face.

For example, his time dealing with emergency situations as an Emergency Response Team Leader at Cadent now allows him to give back to his delegates and share his knowledge and experience of working in high pressured environments.

Utility industry experience

Having a relatable mentor with a strong background in the field reassures delegates that they can ask someone for advice that truly understands the environment they work in and the challenges they may experience since he has been ‘on the tools’ himself.

In particular, Darren works closely with Northern Gas Networks (NGN) to provide bespoke Emergency Response Training for staff at the company, which delivers gas to 2.7m homes and businesses in the North East, Northern Cumbria and much of Yorkshire.

Due to Darren’s experience, he was invited to provide insight and advice during the development of Training Terrace – Develop’s fully to-scale artificial street, which was unveiled at the refurbished York centre earlier this year.

Working alongside Daryll Garavan and Jim Donnelly, Darren gave invaluable guidance from a trainer’s perspective as well as being able to draw upon his experience in his previous role to input into the design of the facility, which has been built to safely recreate emergency response scenarios.

Proudest moments

One of Darren’s key personal highlights was achieving his Level 3 Training Assessment Quality Assurance (TAQA) qualification, a merit that felt long awaited after having worked in the industry for so many years. After putting it off to begin with, his many years of experience made him a natural fit to guide new generations.

He says that he genuinely enjoys coming into work every day, bringing a fun but focused take on gas utilities training and giving back to the industry by training the workforce of the future.

As a trainer, Darren is also able to find a sense of accomplishment in the success of others and enjoys seeing delegates who have completed initial qualifications with him return to Develop to request his expertise as they take their next step in their career development.

Further resources

Visit our Resource Centre for a range of materials to help you plan and manage your utility training needs.

Visit our Gas Distribution page to see our full range of upstream gas training courses.

Professional accreditations