Matt Cullen’s dream was to join the Fire Service or Royal Marines, and he’s proud to say that the dream became reality after he started his career as a lifeguard at 16 years old.

At school, Matt says he wasn’t very good academically; instead, he found it easier to grasp more practical skills, but this left him with very few qualifications to list on his CV. When he began job hunting, Matt knew he needed to increase his employability by showing he had the aptitude to improve his skills; therefore,  he signed up for a pool lifeguard course to demonstrate this.

After successfully passing the pool lifeguard course, he gained employment at his local leisure centre and found the role of pool lifeguard thoroughly enjoyable. After a while, Matt felt the drive to advance his skills. He completed a National Vocational Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NVBLQ) course with the North Sea Volunteer Lifeguards at Whitley Bay, which he describes as a cold yet enjoyable experience.

When Matt became eligible, he applied to both the Fire Service and Royal Marines, and he was pleasantly surprised when he was offered jobs with both organisations; this then meant he had a difficult decision: which organisation should he choose?! He ultimately decided to join the Fire Service because they offered an apprenticeship, which provided further skill development opportunities.

After 29 years, Matt is still employed full-time with the Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service. During his career, he has continued to utilise his lifeguarding skills, which helped him become the lead for water rescue training within the department. Matt describes this moment as a big turning point in his career, and to this day, it provides some of his best career memories. He says he loved spending his working day training fire and rescue crews in white water environments and delivering water rescue training.

Matt’s love for the water, which he fostered as a lifeguard, has enabled him to have a great professional career and an enriched personal life, which includes winning triathlons and running a Rookie Lifeguard programme at his local leisure centre. He has proactively given back to his communities and continued to provide water safety information to society to help more people enjoy water safely.