For small businesses trying to stand out from larger competitors in a crowded marketplace, reputation is key.
This rings true for Middlesbrough-based R C Ayres, a construction business that provides building and roofing services. As a relatively small company, R C Ayres relies heavily on its reputation and client recommendations to drive enquiries.
After hiring new team members following a successful period for the business, Kim Hall, Office Manager at R C Ayres, noticed that some employees needed further training in order to maintain the business’s excellent reputation.
Kim was also finding organising the team’s workload a struggle as not all staff were qualified for the variety of jobs that came through, causing delays to clients’ project timelines.
During a quieter spell, Kim decided to take advantage of the team’s capacity and use the time productively to invest in her staff training. She wanted to ensure they were up-to-speed on both the required construction guidelines and health and safety practices.
Kim heard about the Skills Support for the Workforce (SSW) programme through Evolution, one of the registered training providers for Calderdale College in Tees Valley, which oversees the delivery of the SSW programme.
The SSW programme supports businesses looking to upskill their workforces and is available to small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) seeking non-compulsory, work-based training. It is free to businesses through funding from the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Education and Skills Funding Agency.
Kim sat down with a representative from Evolution and explained where she felt the team needed support. From this, they were able to identify a range of courses that would help ensure all employees were trained to the same high level.
On the analysis process, Kim commented: “I knew some members of the team needed a skills training boost, but I was finding it difficult to see exactly where the gaps were. Evolution was fantastic at helping me realise where we needed the additional skills training, both in terms of technical ability and health and safety knowledge.”
Twelve members of staff required training in total, with six completing a package of short training courses, such as Risk Assessment and Installing Drainage, and a further six members of staff undertaking the Level 2 NVQ in Construction and Civil Engineering.
Evolution worked with Kim to deliver the training in a flexible way so that work did not have to stop, and no revenue was lost.
After an initial classroom session, each member of staff was given a workbook to fill out with evidence of what they had learned and how they applied it to their role on a day-to-day basis. After a couple of months of applying theory to practice, the assessor visited the team one final time so that each employee could demonstrate their progress and success.
Commenting on the delivery of the training, Kim said: “Our employees found the training really engaging, especially as it was delivered through a mixture of classroom learning and practical work.
“We were so pleased that six members of the team were able complete a Level 2 NVQ, meaning that everyone in the company is now qualified to this level as a minimum, something that new clients are on the lookout for in tender processes. This is a qualification we wouldn’t have been able to fund ourselves and it looks very impressive to prospective clients.”
Thanks to the free training from SSW, all members of staff are now qualified to the same level and are delivering work at a high standard, helping to maintain R C Ayres’ excellent reputation.
Not only this, but the qualifications that they secured for free give their clients confidence in the calibre of the operatives they employ, meaning that incoming enquiries and workload continue to be consistent.
The company also has much more flexibility when choosing which operatives are allocated specific jobs, meaning it can continue servicing both new and current clients without causing any delays to projects.
Commenting on the impact of the training, Kim said: “I really couldn’t fault the training that we received through the SSW programme. Our company ethos is very much based on supporting our employees to develop their skills, which results in our solid and loyal client base. Tricky thing is, this often comes at a high cost, but we were able to do this for free with SSW.”
What’s more, Kim has noticed a significant boost in morale in her team, which in turn is having a positive impact on client satisfaction levels.
She added: “Making this investment in our employees and their skills has helped to boost the team’s confidence. Not only are they more comfortable in what they are doing, they also feel much more valued by the business because we’ve invested in them. Our clients can certainly notice this and we’re always receiving compliments and praise for the attitude and expertise of our staff.”
Success from skills training
The SSW programme has helped more than 2,000 people employed in the Tees Valley region, with over 600 businesses, including R C Ayres, having taken advantage of the opportunity.
Helen Howland, Head of the Skills Support for the Workforce Programme in Tees Valley, is full of praise for R C Ayres, saying: “Having a strong reputation is key for many SMEs, as it helps them to win new business and set themselves apart from their competition. By investing in the skills of its staff, R C Ayres has not only bolstered the team’s expertise and knowledge, which is impressive to current and prospective clients, but also boosted motivation within the team. It’s a win-win – and it’s free!”
For more information on the Skills Support for the Workforce project, please visit http://ssw.fundingunit.org.uk/