Digital HRInvesting in skills to make us fit for the future

Investing in skills to make us fit for the future

Neil Morrison is the HR Director of Severn Trent, the UK’s second biggest water company. With over 6,000 employees, Severn Trent and Hafren Dyfrdwy serve around 4.4 million homes and business customers in England and Wales – delivering almost two billion litres of water every day through 49,000km of pipes. One of today’s key challenges in any business, from SMEs to PLCs, is bridging the skills gap.

The vast majority of organisations know the skills they want, but far too many cannot fill roles as they struggle to find people who fit the bill.

Here at Severn Trent, we’ve been working tirelessly over several years to recruit and retain the best people at all levels – from apprentices and graduates, to talented engineers and our board-level senior leaders.

Being based in a diverse region like the Midlands, we’re uniquely placed within some social mobility cold spots – towns where there are less opportunities for people to grow and develop a career.

Aware of the role we play in our local community, we’ve been successful in bringing in young people from these areas where they have the opportunity to be part of Severn Trent and the benefits our training can bring – both through standardised learning and by developing bespoke skills that they themselves want to improve. This includes over 150 apprentices on a range of structured training schemes, as well as support for work experience students and interns.

Investing in skills so our people can be technically brilliant is also a large part of our approach. On average, each employee at Severn Trent takes part in more than three days of formal learning every year to refresh and maintain their knowledge and competence.

When it comes to engineers, we train them to handle the variety of challenges we face – everything from pipe renewal schemes, pipe bursts and sewer upgrade works. While for our office-based teams, we need them to be first-class in dealing with customers and stakeholders, our systems, and handling our processes.

With all of this in mind, over the next five years we will be investing £10m in technical training.

The cornerstone of that investment will see us opening a new technical academy next to one of our operational sites in the Midlands, enabling our workforce to move from classroom teaching to applied learning.  It’s a move which I know will cement our reputation as one of the utilities sector’s leaders in training and development.

Planned to open in 2020, the high-tech academy will equip our people for the future. It will provide an exceptional environment in which to learn and be at the forefront of innovation as we develop what future water and waste networks look like.

A multi-purpose building with indoor and outdoor facilities, it’s going to be a centre of excellence where we will welcome the local community, while at the same time introducing virtual and augmented reality technology to support our training programmes. It will also be the hub for our popular leadership development scheme.

In short, the academy is a key part of our drive to educate our people for life and somewhere where a cross-pollination of learning can happen for real.

The academy, and our structured training programmes, are there to maintain our position as one of the best in terms of learning.

However, it’s not just about us being leaders, we want to build the industry’s reputation and make it shine. That’s why we’re keen for our training to go a step further and help other water companies. With this in mind, plans are being put in place to work alongside our industry colleagues and bring skills up to a level where the whole industry can be proud.

This is only a brief snapshot of what we’re doing here at Severn Trent to push and support the skills agenda.

There’s much to do, much more to achieve, and a huge amount of positives to look back on. We aren’t taking our eye off the ball and look forward to what the next five years will deliver for our people, our industry and our communities.

 

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