MSc in Safety & Risk ManagementPaul Nicholas

Tell us a bit about your background (education, home city etc).

I was born and raised in Glasgow, on the Southside of Glasgow, Newlands to be precise. The geographical area of the University of Strathclyde is close to my heart, as I was born across the road at the Rottenrow Maternity Hospital in May 1985. In addition, lots of my family members originate from the Townhead area of the city, which is also close to the University.

I was educated at St Aloysius College, and started my Bachelor of Arts degree in 2002 at the age of 17, completing my degree in 2005, having specialised in Sociology and Human Resource Management. I was the first person on both sides of my family to go to university, my Gran used to work in the University of Strathclyde canteen in the 1990s. As you can imagine, she was very proud when I was accepted to study there. In 2006, I gained a graduate trainee position as a Health and Safety Advisor for a construction company based in Glasgow.

While working in this role I was sent back to Strathclyde, where I completed my Post Graduate Certificate, Diploma, and finally in 2012 my MSc Safety and Risk Management. As an undergraduate, in 2002, I joined the University boxing team, having represented Strathclyde at the British and Irish boxing championships on several occasions. This was the start of my competitive boxing career, which spanned a further 12 years and ended in October 2014.

What inspired you to undertake the Safety and Risk Management programme?

I wanted to set myself apart from the rest of the competition and work in the best industries, for the best companies. I completed my MSc at 26, which is relatively young looking back on it now. I was aware that you can complete a basic NEBOSH exam (which I did first in 2006) and be qualified to undertake roles as a Health and Safety practitioner. However, after some market research into my industry, I knew that only a handful of people at the time had an MSc in my field, so I decided to further my academic education.

How did you find balancing the commitments of work with those of the programme?

To be honest, it was challenging and pushed me out of my comfort zone. However, I guess if gaining an MSc was easy, everyone would have one! Trying to manage the commitments of full-time work, family and study is very difficult, but it has been very rewarding in the long run. I'm glad I made the choice to complete my MSc.

What advice would you give to someone considering studying Safety and Risk Management at Strathclyde?

Commit and go for it! It’s a fantastic course, run by an amazing university. It will massively help your career.

How did you find the support available to you at the University (resources, tutors, teaching etc)?

I found it very supportive at all levels. The tutors are very knowledgeable and experienced. In addition, the library and research facilities are first-class.

What have you been doing since graduating the programme?

Since completing my MSc I have worked across the UK, Europe and Middle East in Senior HSE positions for companies like Vodafone, SSE, BAM International and Costain. In 2016, I decided to set up my own Safety and Risk consultancy business which I still run and manage today.

What learnings have you taken with you, from the programme into your role?

How you engage with management and coal face workers is so important. Good safety performance is built on trust, good relationships, and collaboration with the workforce. Without this, you cannot build a good culture and ultimately keep people safe. Build strong meaningful relationships, and then sell the benefits of good safety performance to management and workers alike.

Since completing the programme, have you taken on any further training?

Yes, I decided to bolster my Environmental knowledge in 2015, and undertook the AIEMA course. I thought this would be especially relevant to my role, and is currently very useful with the demands organisations face in relation to climate change and net-zero targets.

What is the best part of your job?

Making sure people return home safe to their families each day. There is no better satisfaction than this.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I would love to further expand some of my current business interest in relation to my Safety and Risk consultancy and property businesses. Potentially, I would also like the opportunity to move abroad with my family and work from either somewhere in Europe or the UAE again.

Any final points, or words of wisdom?

“Sometimes, when the going gets tough, you must get up off the stool for another round and keep moving forward!”.