Lee Cullen describes himself as an “average kid who left school with grade D GCSEs” before beginning work straight away as a trainee engineer. In 2001, an opportunity arose with Skywheels, an Altrincham based company with over 20 years of global aviation wheel repair experience, where, aged 19, Lee began a summer contract as a temporary labourer. Regularly working overtime and additional shifts as required, the company was impressed with Lee’s enthusiasm and commitment, offering him a trainee fitter/mechanics role at the end of his temporary contract.

Seizing the opportunity, Lee began his permanent role, undertaking a level 1 fitter qualification, before progressing
on to the level 2 and level 3; qualifications required to ensure compliance with strict aviation laws. On successful completion of the level 3 qualification, Lee was offered a supervisory role with Skywheels before progressing into a management position, managing the wheel bay until 2014. 

In 2014, Lee’s commitment, dedication and drive were recognised, with the Managing Director, Chris Jones, offering
him the opportunity to move into an operations manager role. In this role Lee is responsible for all of the internal departments and has over 60 members of staff within those teams. He is also involved in the commercial side of the business, regularly working with the Managing Director both nationally and internationally on significant contracts for the business.

To coincide with his new role, Lee actively pursued learning and development opportunities, with a keen interest in undertaking a management qualification, as he wanted to back up his shop floor skills with theory and learn more about packages including PowerPoint and Word. Already aware of The Skills Company through current apprentices in his team, Lee enquired about the Level 3 Diploma in Management and began the programme in April 2015. Lee has now completed the programme and is putting the new management techniques he has learnt into practice.

Describing the programme Lee said “it was a good course, which I really enjoyed. I learnt a range of new management techniques, which I have been able to implement in the workplace. I am now able to look at a situation, think what went well, what went wrong and manage the situation accordingly.”

Lee hopes to progress onto the Level 5 Diploma and would like to undertake a Foundation Degree in Business Management, with his ultimate ambition being to become the organisation’s Technical Director.

When describing a typical day in his role, Lee explained that it is a varied post, which involves everything from checking that all departments have the right staffing levels, to signing off key documentation for individual airlines, carrying out audits and customer visits and providing feedback to teams and individuals on performance. Lee is also responsible for all of the recruitment and selection in his internal departments and regularly makes use of his niche skills and qualifications by returning to work on the shop floor.

Speaking about his time with the organisation Lee said, “I started here helping a team to strip and clean airline wheels; now I regularly sit in board meetings with 40 to 50 senior staff from a range of international companies. I can see the potential in many staff throughout the company and firmly believe that any of them could follow in my footsteps. There is nothing stopping anyone progressing from the shop floor to management and beyond if that’s what they want to do. They just need to remember that you really do get out what you put in.”