Banner Default Image

Training – are we getting it right?

Back to Blogs
Blog Img

Training – are we getting it right?

This article was originally posted on the Water Magazine website.

Carrington West is an award-winning recruitment company providing technical talent to the UK water & environmental industries. As the UK water sector begins to deliver more training than ever to fill the current skills gap, the big question is – what’s the most effective approach?

Like many of the UK’s organisations responsible for providing vital infrastructure, those within the water sector are facing a skills shortage. The much-reported investment into apprenticeships within the sector is one facet of a plan to future proof the talent pipeline. However, with a more immediate lack of skilled workers threatening to slow major projects at a time where the industry is also under pressure to meet climate and sustainability goals, organisations are having to build their own learning and development (L&D) programmes.

There is no doubt that the investment into skills development within organisations has steadily increased over the past few years, but how successful will these programmes be, and will they help the industry to close the skills gap? Before we can even begin to answer this, we need to go some way in understanding whether the current workforce is engaging with the L&D programmes being implemented.

The Carrington West team of water specialist recruiters speaks with hundreds of water contract workers and job seekers, mainly with an engineering background, every week. Over the course of the last month they interviewed thirty individuals who worked in either tier one contracting companies, consultancies or water utility companies. They asked them about the training provision within their organisations, how it was delivered, how they prefer to study, what kind of training they receive, what they feel they need more of, and their thoughts on the overall effectives of L&D programmes.

The majority of the people interviewed said their training was delivered internally, either informally at-desk, via an e-learning platform or in-person by a training manager or line manager. Carrington West says this seems entirely representative of the organisations they work across other built environment sectors. However, perhaps surprisingly, 50% of interviewees said they would prefer an external training provider or professional to deliver training in-person, or that they would prefer to seek support from a professional body.

Sam Bevan, Lead Consultant, says:

“Receiving training to help you do your job in the short term is one thing, but technical professionals such as engineers are also looking for the accreditations and qualifications that will help their overall career goals. Some of the first questions I always get asked by candidates before they even agree to be put forward for a role is if the hiring organisation will provide support with training and achieving.”

Sam goes on to say:

“From conducting these interviews one thing that was mentioned in almost every case where I asked what training they would like to receive, almost all mentioned management training. Most engineers seem to except that ongoing technical training comes with the career, but there is a sense of frustration that there is little investment into project and people management skills. These are the skills they feel they are lacking to do their job now, as well as to progress their careers long-term.”

This is something that Carrington West Director, Simon Gardiner, agrees with. Simon is a passionate advocate for championing the development of so called “soft skills”, within Carrington West, but also in his role as Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Portsmouth’s business school.

“Over the past few years there has been a marked drop in some of the development of what we would normally describe as the fundamental skills needed to excel in the workplace. Whilst we recognise that there is a technical skills shortage and we need to look at all stages of training starting with STEM subjects in schools and apprenticeships, clearly people are also crying out for the skills that shape and lead teams, drive innovation and deliver projects.

The utility providers, consultancies and contractors in the water sector and other UK’s major infrastructure sectors, are designing and delivering some of the world’s leading engineering projects. If companies, big or small, don’t offer training that strikes the right balance between technical know-how and wider business skills, the industry will always under deliver.”

Carrington West concludes that the majority of the interviewees agreed that overall organisations are doing their best to provide L&D, but it seems there is plenty of room for improvement in the delivery and content of these programmes.

Browse our water & environmental jobs.

Get in touch to find out more.

Read more from the Water Magazine.