David Piercy (Performance Engineer)

How the training landscape is changing and the impact tailored courses can have on business revenue and employee development.

It was recently announced that companies with a payroll of £3 million or more will be required to pay into both the Government’s apprenticeship levy fund and the Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) training levy from 2017.

With investments such as this, which are only set to increase over the coming years, it’s likely that training courses will continue to evolve to offer more than basic learnings and instead work to meet industry requirements and open doors to students, employees (both prospective and existent) and employers alike.

Increasingly, decision makers are seeing the clear benefits of investing in education for apprentices, student, and post-graduate trainees. However, an area that more and more are beginning to prioritise is training for existing employees.

There are considerable revenue benefits to be taken into account when looking to up-skill members of staff within an existing team - whether that be through internal or external training initiatives.

Internal training courses are often available to accommodate company-specific processes, while external courses can support employees in keeping up-to-date with industry developments and building on specific skills, and can also open the door to new ways of working.

An example of where external training has had a direct impact on a company’s bottom line and operational approaches was demonstrated recently when  chemical engineers from British Gypsum  attended an IChemE course on Pinch Technology, which helps users design and optimise a heat recovery network.

Following the course, the team invested time in exploring how the imparted knowledge could be adapted and applied within the company’s Barrow site to improve existing solutions for a heat exchanger which was not operating efficiently.

As part of the programme, an undergraduate from Loughborough University has been working alongside a number of British Gypsum’s qualified chemical engineers to understand the machine deficiency in more detail and identify the improvements required.

Once complete, the results will form part of a business case to upgrade the existing heat exchanger – improving machine efficiency  and reducing the plant’s energy consumption.

Post-course guidance

The learnings taken from training courses can become meaningless if not utilised promptly and effectively. Those attending must be open minded, willing to adopt behavioural change to further develop skills and impart the knowledge gained with colleagues.

This can be approached with internal post-training coaching, which forms an important part of the learning experience and helps cement the knowledge through validation and evaluation.

Take the British Gypsum heat recovery project for example – the team worked closely to coach and mentor the undergraduate throughout the process. By gaining on-the-job experience from an engineering training course, the learning experience was not only enhanced for the student (which led to a second placement), but also fed back into the company’s on process of scrutinising and improving its operational and behavioural approaches.

Investing in tomorrow

With the Government and industry bodies pledging commitment to developing the skills of tomorrow’s engineers through investment in training courses, employers must make sure they are getting the most out of the opportunities available.

By not only providing regular and engaging training opportunities for students and graduates alike, but also upskilling existing employees, companies can ensure they stay ahead of the curve, while also finding new methods to develop processes, save time and ultimately, improve the bottom line.

David Piercy (Performance Engineer)

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