A VETERAN fire chief from Innerleithen has told how he left school with no qualifications and no professional prospects.

Peter Heath revealed his rise the top as the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service prepare to launch a national recruitment campaign at the end of this month.

Despite leaving school at the age of 16 with no exams, it wasn’t until Peter turned 25 that he decided to apply for a firefighter position with the former Lothian and Borders Fire Service in 1992. Of the 2,300 applicants, Peter secured one of the 13 posts on offer, and his career in the fire service grew from there.

He was supported through two university Masters degrees, before rising to become a deputy assistant chief officer.

Peter is now responsible for protecting communities across the West of Scotland, the busiest Service Delivery Area in the country.

Peter said: “I spent the first half of my adult life being embarrassed by my lack of qualifications and I’ve spent the second half of my life mentoring others to achieve. I always knew I was capable and just needed the opportunity to show what I could do.

“I’m a confident person but education has allowed me to grow; that professional recognition has been empowering – and that’s all down to the Fire Service which has allowed me to excel beyond anything I thought I could ever achieve.

“My contribution and payback for the faith shown in me is to use this experience to encourage others who may be in a similar position to come forward.

“There are those out there now who might only be 18, with no qualifications and limited life experience but please be assured that we can see your potential.

“If you have an enquiring mind and you are prepared to listen, learn and work hard, then the ball is on the penalty spot. Go and kick it – and apply to become a firefighter.”

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service national recruitment campaign opens on November 30.

To apply to become a firefighter, visit: www.firescotland.gov.uk/peoplelikeyou.aspx