Upskilling staff proves to be an award-winning decision

The challenge

Ecoplas Limited, part of the Eurocell group, is a uPVC recycling operation based near Selby in North Yorkshire. They handle around 20,000 tonnes of waste per annum to produce recycled material which can be re-introduced into the construction industry and have ambitious growth plans.

Sitting as one of the top five businesses in its sector, Ecoplas wanted to expand and open further sites to become a major player and number one choice in the recycling plastic waste industry.

As a company focused on growth, having a committed, experienced and skilled workforce is vital to maintain a competitive edge and make sure productivity is as efficient as possible.

However, the business was experiencing high levels of staff turnover and Ecoplas’ growth plans looked to be in a troubling place as they worried about reaching the company’s sales targets.

The management team then began to work on a plan to reduce staff turnover, noticing that the company could benefit from a cultural change to help retain employees. Staff development was at the heart of this, knowing that upskilling the workforce, professional development and formal qualifications would help motivate workers and make them feel valued by investing in them.

The solution

Ecoplas then decided to reach out to the Skills Support for the Workforce (SSW) project, which offers fully-funded training courses to employees of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to explore what could be done to help.

The programme, which supports businesses looking to grow, is available to SMEs seeking non-compulsory, work-based training, and the cost is co-financed through the European Union’s European Social Fund (ESF) and the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Ecoplas was introduced to DC Training, one of the registered training providers for Calderdale College in North Yorkshire, which oversees the delivery of the SSW programme.

A detailed skills analysis session took place involving both parties, who worked together to develop a tailored training programme. This involved identifying the staff that would benefit from training, the courses that would help the businesses long-term growth plans and also when the training would take place, working best around the needs of the company.

Following the session, 46 employees were enrolled onto Performing Manufacturing Operations and Industrial Environment Awareness courses. This involved a combination of classroom sessions and on-the-job training through observation by the DC Training staff, who provided advice on operational best practice and covered all relevant legislations.

Training took place between November 2017 and December 2018, with 12 more staff members enrolling after seeing their colleagues benefit. Following this, 35 employees have since gone onto higher level qualifications including Management Level’s 3 and 5 courses.

Ryan Holland, site manager at Ecoplas, commented: “We knew we needed to change the culture at Ecoplas to make sure staff felt valued. We are extremely grateful for the training teams, who spent a lot of time with the staff to identify skills gaps and pull together a long-term training plan – it is truly a partnership of co-operation and understanding.

“New developments in the recycling industry are continuous, which is why our training programme is on-going, so we can ensure staff are up-to-date with the knowledge they need to help give the company a competitive edge. Employees are really enjoying enhancing their skills and we have frequent conversations with them about their development. It’s great to see the workforce proactively asking for training, rather than waiting for opportunities to come to them.”

One year on…

One year later and Ecoplas is reaping the benefits of its on-going training programme with staff morale at the highest level it has experienced in many years.

Not only this, but the company, which averages 60 – 70 employees, has seen a 66% reduction in staff turnover since the introduction of training.

On maintaining its staff, Ryan commented: “The training has transformed our workplace culture. We’ve established an environment where employees feel, and know, they are an integral part of what we are trying to achieve as a business. We have also seen a major boost in productivity, with a significant reduction in accidents on site, solidifying our reputation as a company that provides high quality results and is reliable.”

Ecoplas was also awarded Outstanding Employer at the Inspired People Event in September 2018, hosted by The York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership.

Success from skills training

Ebrahim Dockrat MBE, Director of Commercial Services and Partnerships at Calderdale College, the main contractor for Skills Support for the Workforce, discusses the success of the project: “It is brilliant to hear about how the skills training we have provided is helping businesses with their long-term goals. Through training staff, you can improve your ability to adapt to a rapidly changing business environment through not only providing employees with knowledge to do the job more productivity but giving them a boost of motivation by investing in their individual career journeys.

“The SSW programme has helped upskill over 3,000 employees in the North and East Yorkshire area, with over 1,000 businesses, including Ecoplas, having taken advantage of the opportunity. They are all now reaping the benefits and looking to continue training to continue to help their business growth.”

For more information on the Skills Support for the Workforce project, please click here