Keith Marshall explains the motivation behind SummitSkills’ Good Day campaign and tells how businesses are achieving many good days with the support of a skilled and motivated workforce

The recent Sector Skills Agreement (SSA) identified the need to create an aspirational image for careers in building services engineering in order to attract high-calibre entrants into the sector. It also recognised that employers will be more encouraged to undertake training initiatives if it can be proved that training really does pay.

As a result of the SSA findings, SummitSkills has launched a ‘Good Day’ promotional campaign with the aim of demonstrating to employers, employees and new entrants that they can enjoy a satisfying and successful day in business, every day, by developing their technical and personal skills base and truly appreciating the vital contribution to business, and to UK plc, that is made by the sector.

During SummitSkills’ widespread discussions with employers during the formulation of the SSA, we asked the question, what does a good day at work mean to you? Answers came in many guises but can be summed up as follows.

A good day in business involves providing an excellent service, at the best price to the highest standards, because this enables companies to win more contracts and complete projects on time and within budget, increasing their productivity and profitability.

We put the same question to employees. They said that a good day for them is about learning something new and rising to a challenge, knowing they have made a difference and done a job well, with a satisfied client – and employer – at the end of a project.

For both parties to enjoy many good days, it is essential for first class, relevant and timely training to be available. Training affects everyone in a business. It improves customer service, technical knowledge and overall ability, and it increases the employees’ confidence and job satisfaction. Ultimately, it creates new opportunities and grows the business.

Of course, it is equally important for there to be a sufficient number of apprentices able to undertake the training successfully, and for employers to be willing to recruit them.

A good day involves giving an excellent service at the best price to the highest standards because this enables firms to win more contracts and finish projects on time and in budget

Keith Marshall

To support the Good Day campaign, SummitSkills has developed a range of materials available for both employers and careers audiences. We have produced two case study booklets. One profiles businesses across the building services sector, including both Central Group Services and Almac Engineering (see boxes below).

These real life experiences conclusively demonstrate the benefits of training for companies, clearly defining the contribution that training makes to their financial performance.

By using employee case studies in the other booklet, encompassing the full spectrum of diversity that can be found within each industry, the Good Day campaign will promote the excellent vocational and professional career prospects available in the industry for successful apprentices to schools, colleges, careers advisers and parents.

There are many misconceptions about the sector – that it only involves working on building sites, for example. SummitSkills’ aim is to broaden the awareness of young people and their mentors by showing how varied, intricate and creative the work can be, and how defined career paths can lead to high earnings potential.

The case studies will appear on our dedicated website, where visitors can access all the literature, plus video clips. We have also produced a careers DVD and an interactive game. To disseminate the information, we will be working hard over the next 12 months to reach employers, careers influencers and potential entrants through direct mail, email alerts and public relations.

There are many employers out there who recognise the benefits that training can bring, both to their own company and to the sector as a whole, and they are already enjoying some very good days. At SummitSkills, we want every business in the electrical and mechanical industries to join them.

Central Line

Central Group Services is a medium-sized company specialising in maintenance contracts for both mechanical and electrical services. A member of both the ECA and HVCA, it covers commercial, industrial and domestic work and currently has 75 employees with 10 apprentices.

The company has always employed at least one apprentice each year since it started trading in 1994. Paul Kane, managing director, has been proactive in developing training resources through his role as local group chairman of the HVCA and board member of Plumbing and Mechanical Services Training in Northern Ireland.

Paul is committed to training. He says: “It’s essential for industry sustainability and for the profitability of individual companies. There’s no choice about training – you have to do it if you want to succeed.”

Paul has endorsed the Good Day campaign and encourages other employers to get involved.

“It is the responsibility of key employers to drive training forward and show fellow organisations how they too can reap the rewards of training investment.

“Ensuring our engineers are correctly trained and fully cognisant of the latest technological innovations and current industry legislation will raise the level of expertise and the profile of the sector as a whole.

“Larger companies can benefit directly, as we do, through an in-house apprentice training programme that provides skills tailored to their business needs. Smaller companies, who may not have the time or money to take on an apprentice, still need to invest in ongoing training for existing staff, to keep them abreast of industry developments and ensure they have the appropriate skills as they progress through their careers.”

Almac almanac

Almac Engineering is a useful example of the Good Day philosophy. Based in Cardiff and specialising in ductwork manufacture and installation, Almac is fully committed to providing ongoing training to its existing staff, with many of the 12 staff holding an NVQ Level 3.

The company believes it is essential that its people not only have skills and experience but also the qualifications to match.

“We carried out training in two phases to minimise the impact on the business,” explains managing director Richard Owens. “NVQs are the only way of demonstrating that your employees are safe and competent.

“Knowing that our staff have NVQs also means that they have been able to gain a skillcard, which is proof of competence and enables them to gain access to a site.

“It’s important to have confidence in the people who are going out and doing the job – and qualifications provide just that. Competent employees also work together better as a team, which in turn helps to enhance productivity and boost the bottom line.

“That’s what I’d say to anyone who thinks training doesn’t pay.”