From education to employment

Former @LSEColleges student appointed Rescue and Fire Fighting Crew Manager at London Biggin Hill Airport

A star firefighter from Orpington has won promotion to a senior role in the Rescue and Fire Fighting Services at London Biggin Hill Airport.

Vanessa Hopkins (25) is a former Public Services Level 3 Diploma student based at the College’s Bromley Campus. After a period of six years as a professional firefighter at the airport, she has made the grade to lead their newly appointed ‘Green Watch’ service.

It was an initial work experience opportunity, organised by the College back in 2011, that led Vanessa to being taken on as a trainee firefighter. She was sent for six-weeks of intensive training at the International Fire Training Centre (IFTC) in Teesside before returning to complete a year-long, on-the-job training period with her team.

With hugely increased responsibilities and leading a team of 11 firefighters, Vanessa is very keen and enthusiastic about her new role. She says:

“I’m delighted about the promotion. I’ve worked and studied incredibly hard to reach this point in my career and I’m going to thoroughly enjoy it. With six years of experience behind me, plus my training, I’m more than ready to move into this supervisory management position.

“I’m very thankful for the start I was given at London South East Colleges back in 2010. The course there made me realise what I wanted to be. At first I wanted to join the Army but because of my work experience programme and the insight I was given into the fire and rescue services, I changed my mind. I haven’t looked back. I think I found my pathway in life by taking this course. I also learnt how to speak up in front of other people and give presentations. Being with lots of other like-minded fellow students, we all learnt to work as a team and take responsibility for ourselves as well as for each other – essential qualities for most public services roles.

“Over the years I have had to put my mind to many different technical and theoretical issues that encompass the work of a fire and rescue service. I’ve also had to keep myself in peek physical condition. Every four years, I am required to return to the IFTC to renew my training certificate, which means I have to stay on my toes and keep up-to-date with all new developments in the service. I hope one day to be promoted higher, maybe into a senior training manager role. After that, who knows where I’ll go? One thing is for certain though, I love this job.”

Andy Mellers, Senior Airport Fire Officer at Biggin Hill Airport, has worked with Vanessa from day one and has overseen her progression and development. He says:

“It only seems like yesterday that Vanessa joined the service; in that time, she has been a hardworking, reliable, diligent and truly valuable member of the team. She has shown a positive attitude, competency and great determination in her pursuit of excellence. I hope she continues to work with us and help to keep the entire community of the airport safe, secure and in good health.”

London South East Colleges has a great range of courses for people interested in a career in Public Services. Come along to one of our open events – visit

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