Trish Kerin

Trish Kerin

  • Position Director, IChemE Safety Centre

Trish leads IChemE's Inherent Safety in Design and Operation Development course and its Process Safety Leadership and Culture course. 

1. Can you tell us more about your career to date?

Prior to joining IChemE as the inaugural director of the IChemE Safety Centre, I worked in the Oil and Gas and Chemical Industries. I started as a graduate project engineer and progressed into operations, safety and management, holding an executive role in a gas production and distribution company prior to my current one.

2. What made you decide to become a trainer?

I have always enjoyed helping people learn new things. I have previously also been a SCUBA diving instructor, so I have also had the opportunity to learn how to teach well. It seems like a natural fit for me to help people understand what I am passionate about – process safety.

3. What was your first experience of being a trainer?

As a project engineer there were often opportunities to run training sessions on various projects in order to deliver them to the operations teams. So from very early in my career I have been leading training sessions.

4. What is the best thing about delivering training?

I love seeing the response when someone understands a new concept for the first time.

5. What’s the hardest part of being a trainer?

Sometimes you don’t have all the answers, and it is important to have courage to admit that. But then help the person find the answer.

6. How do you know if a training course is going well and what does good training look and feel like?

I think you can tell by how much interaction you are getting from the delegates. It is a bit harder now with virtual activities, but you can still see how much people are participating. It is also apparent then there is a lot if discussion in group activities and at the coffee breaks. It shows people are engaged in the topics.

7. As a trainer, what’s the difference between teaching a public training course and an in-company one?

With an in company program you can focus it a bit more to the company, rather than having to keep it more general with a range of examples that are relevant to all in the room. One is not better than the other, they are just different.

8. What do you think the future of training looks like?

I suspect we will see more hybrid activities taking place. I think virtual training is here to stay, but I hope we will also continue to see some in person events, they atmosphere is different and much can be learnt for side bar conversations.

9. How do you recommend someone embeds the learning from a training course in their day-to-day work after attending a training course?

At the end of the program, take some time to reflect on what you have learnt and what you want to put into practice, then make a plan and ask a friend of colleague to follow it up with you. In the Process Safety Leadership and Culture programme we do this as part of the close out, and I then follow up delegates 3 months late to se how they are going. I find having the create a plan and then following it up helps to keep some focus on it, and it is less likely to fall by the wayside when the day to day activities resume.

10.Many people, especially senior people, often cite ‘lack of time’ as the reason they can’t undertake training. How would you respond to that?

Training gives us time for reflection and this is vital in keeping us at the top of our game. If you don’t have time to reflect and learn with regard to process safety, you will find yourself having to make time to deal with incidents. In Dr Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the habits is to “sharpen the saw” – training keeps our tools in top condition for doing the work.

11. Training budgets are often managed by the HR department, rather than the Engineering department. How do you think chemical and process engineers should pitch the benefits of technical training to their colleagues in HR?

Training is a key step to developing competency in a topic, and competency development is at the heart of HR processes to build organisational capability and manage succession planning. So training helps HR deliver organisational benefits, so sell the idea of what is in it for the organisation as well as you. The organisation benefits from competency people.

12. Thinking specifically about this course, what sort of people should attend this course and what would they learn?

I mainly deliver Process Safety Leadership and Culture, though I also from time to time deliver other process safety content for IChemE. So I would answer this question as the opportunity to connect with other, learn and share experiences and benefit from the knowledge of all those in the room, including my experience from industry.

13. What’s the most memorable feedback you’ve had from a training course attendee?

"Worth the time and travel to participate" - Group HSE Manager

We need to remember that people are not only making a financial commitment to attend a course, they commit their time as well, which is often worth more than the delegate fee – it is up to us to make it worth their while.

14. What advice would you give to anyone thinking about becoming a trainer?

Take the time to learn a bit about how people learn – training is not just about talking to some slides, you need to adapt delivery to the audience needs, so understanding people is necessary to deliver this.

15. And finally, what’s your proudest achievement as a trainer?

Actually a SCUBA diving example. There was a student who was very nervous, and 3 other instructors had tried to take her into the ocean for her first open water dive. All were unable to get her to go underwater. I decided to talk to her and give it a try. I said to the others that I would be back in 40 minutes after the dive – they laughed and said “no way”. After we had been underwater for the planned time of 30 minutes, the student was disappointed to end the dive, but you always have to “plan the dive and dive the plan”. I had succeeded in helping her experience the underwater world. She did not go on to qualify, but she had a fantastic experience, that she herself did not think possible. It was satisfying to share that significant achievement with her.


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