Having certifications that help you stand out from the crowd is vital for any business looking to keep and attract clients. However, achieving and maintaining these certifications can come at a big cost and can also be time consuming.
For Harrison Hire and Sales – a family-run business which specialises in the sale, hire and servicing of industrial cleaning equipment based in Malton, North Yorkshire – it was important that it renewed its Safe Contractor certification. Not only would it demonstrate a commitment to following safety regulations, giving the business a competitive edge in an already saturated marketplace, but the training the employees needed to take would also make them more knowledgeable about their work environment.
Operations Director, Anne Harrison, knew that being fully-versed in health and safety policy and current legislation would increase her employees’ confidence in the workplace, which would lead to fewer operational mistakes for the business and boost morale across the team, making for a happier and more productive workforce.
Historically, investing in her staff’s skills and renewing the annual certification had been costly, both in terms of the money spent on the training and the loss of revenue, as Anne would have to pause business whilst employees took part in the learning.
Keen to explore her training options, Anne wondered whether she could upskill her staff in a more cost-effective way, that also wouldn’t require them to temporarily close the business.
After hearing about the Skills Support for the Workforce (SSW) programme through another company’s recommendation, Anne was introduced to Tim from DC Training and Development Services, one of the registered training providers for Calderdale College in York, North Yorkshire and East Riding, 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.
Tim visited Anne at Harrison’s office to discuss the business’s requirements and talk her through the different options that were available.
After an in-depth discussion about the team’s skills gaps, Tim suggested that all employees would benefit from a qualification that would give them a better understanding of the environment that they work in and that would teach them how to complete tasks safely and professionally.
Anne’s employees took the training in small groups of four at the company’s Malton headquarters across a number of days. As the training provider was able to be flexible around the business’s working hours, Harrison Hire and Sales were able to continue operating as normal while the staff took part in the training, so Anne didn’t have to worry about losing revenue while upskilling her workforce.
All 12 employees completed the “Award in Industrial Environment Awareness”, with a further four members also enrolling on a “Transferring Materials” module provided through the programme.
Three employees progressed onto the Level 3 “Award in Emergency First Aid at Work” qualification which meant these team members were qualified in emergency first-aid – another requirement to retain the business’s Safe Contractor certification.
The free training thanks to the SSW programme meant that Anne was able to upskill her workforce and improve her team’s confidence whilst retaining the business’s Safe Contractor certification at no additional cost to herself or the business.
Commenting on her experience of the training Anne said: “Our Safe Contractor certification shows customers that we take workplace health and safety very seriously, so they trust us to do a good job. Being able to renew the training this certification requires for free was fantastic, as not only did it help us to save money in the short-term, it also allowed us to make a long-term investment in our staff and their skills. I have also noticed a huge shift in the dynamic of the team, who are not only more productive but also more comfortable in their jobs.”
In particular, Anne noticed that the training had a significant impact on one of the company’s youngest members of staff, Cody Young. While Cody was at school, he struggled with traditional classroom methods of teaching, so Harrison agreed to hire Cody as a trainee on a trial basis to see if an industrial environment, with more practical methods of learning, would be more suitable for his future career development.
On completing the training, Cody said: “I struggle to focus in classroom settings, so it was helpful to have Tim on hand to answer my questions as we went through the training whilst onsite at Harrison. Being able to see how the theory worked alongside the practical element of my role was really insightful and it’s made me feel much more confident because I have a better understanding of the shop floor and my position within it.”
Anne added: “After the training, we saw a great improvement in both Cody’s attitude and ability, so we decided to make him a full-time member of staff. I am very happy with the progress he has made and he is a shining example of what can be achieved with the correct support and development.”
The training has also improved the team’s industrial awareness working onsite. The increased confidence employees have in their job roles means that Anne’s team will now make her aware of any potential risks and hazards they spot, so problems can be resolved before they become crucial to the operation of the business.
Commenting on this, Anne said: “We rely on our staff to let us know when things aren’t up to specification, and the training has certainly helped with this. Because the team are now more aware of the equipment that they’re using, they recently pointed out that some ladders we had weren’t meeting the required standard, so we were able to quickly replace them before anybody used them again.
Success from skills training
The SSW programme has helped over 900 employed people in the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding area, with over 300 businesses, including Harrison Hire and Sales, having taken advantage of the opportunity.
Helen Howland, Head of the Skills Support for the Workforce Programme in York, North Yorkshire and East Riding, is full of praise for Harrison, adding: “At a time when many small businesses are wary of incurring extra costs, the SSW programme provides an amazing opportunity for business owners like Anne to keep adding value to their business, free of charge.”
She added: “We hope that Anne’s story will encourage other businesses in the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding area to get in touch with us, as this is a key example that upskilling staff doesn’t need to disrupt day-to-day operations or be costly.”
For more information on the Skills Support for the Workforce project, please visit http://ssw.fundingunit.org.uk/.