From pigs to plugs: Bright spark Alan finds new career
- Credit: Archant
A PIG farmer has been sharpening up his grey cells by training to become an electrician.
Alan Robinson, 50, of Woolpit, suffered a setback when his landlord at Mickfield, near Stowmarket, decided to sell up.
It meant he lost a sizeable part of his indoor pig operation, where he also employed his son, Matthew.
He moved some pigs to his other site at Gosbeck, near Needham Market, but he had to go back to a one-man operation.
Meanwhile, his brother, David, who has an outdoor pig breeding operation at Sudbourne, near Woodbridge, took on his son.
Alan went from a 3,000 pig fattening operation to 1,999 and decided he needed to look at other career options.
“All of a sudden that made me think if I were to lose the other one, and thought I would do something different,” he explained.
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He gained his basic electrician’s qualification in November, and is about to go for a higher certification.
Alan comes from a pig farming family - his late father, Bernard, had an operation at Cotton, near Stowmarket.
Despite the 7am starts, working seven days a week for up to 12 hours a day in often cold and wet conditions, Alan says he still enjoys pig farming.
But he felt it was time to do something else and give himself more financial security
He got in touch with New Career Skills, a firm which specialises in retraining mature learners in plumbing and electrics and in renewables and microgeneration.
“I do still enjoy it but I wanted to do something different,” he said. “As I get older I’m not coping so well with the bad weather.”
He wanted a trade and felt becoming an electrician would be the most interesting and well paid move. He has combined his studies with his pig farming, but may scale back on the pigs, which are fattened under contract for BQP, depending on how things develop.
He says that he has found it fairly easy to adjust to learning again - but hasn’t enjoyed the nerves involved in sitting exams.
“I’ve really enjoyed the practical side and learning has never been a problem for me but it’s the exam nerves that get to you,” he said.
Despite working up to 70 hours a week as a pig farmer, Alan has thrown himself into his retraining and hopes to qualify and set up as a sole trader, under the company name AR Electrical, by February.
Everyone has been really supportive of his career move, including his mother who doesn’t mind her son breaking with something of a family tradition, he said.
He has already inspired a fellow pig farmer to think about a change of career.
“Everyone’s circumstances are different but this has really suited me,” he said.
“It fits in with where I want to be headed to in five years time. It is going to be a big change of lifestyle. I’m not necessarily doing it to make more money, but to make the same amount working less hours,” he said.
“I don’t see it being any more lucrative than what I’m doing now. I can earn a living and we are OK, but the electrics site of it I think if that picked up so I was only doing that, I could be equally well off but not working seven days a week. I’m not getting any younger, and it’s not going to get any easier.”
Another aspect he is looking to is working with other people as pig farming can be a lonely business.
“I’m looking forward to meeting lots of different people and working on a site,” he said.
“That will be a definite plus. You’re on your own all day, every day doing what I do.
“That’s something I’ve really enjoyed about the New Career Skills course - working in an environment with lots of lads together. It’s been really nice.”
He added: “It will be nice to work on something, see it finished and know it’s been done properly.”
Alan has already been putting his new skills to good use, doing some DIY at home and for his mother. There could be other benefits to a career change, he added.
“The downside of working with animals is the smell,” he said.
“My wife makes me have a bath as soon as I get in.”