3 minutes read   06 May 2022

Skilling up pays Dividends

By Eric Fairhurst

In the last year, Chepstow Plant International has invested heavily in trialling an enhanced training programme across a handful of quarrying and aggregates sites in the South West. Here, Eric Fairhurst, Chepstow’s South West Regional Manager, talks about the impact that the company is now seeing as a result.

It’s well known that the industry has long faced a skills shortage. This, coupled with the need to invest in and retain good people, has highlighted the need to create meaningful and effective training programmes that our staff – both new and existing – can benefit from for the duration of their career with us.

In the last 12 months, we’ve invested heavily in upskilling the local workforce in Devon and Cornwall, but more importantly brought new personnel into the industry that we’ve trained and developed from a standing start. Why? Not only to offer more stability for the local community when it comes to creating job opportunities, but also to reduce potential commuting time for people getting to work and to encourage a greener footprint for the workforce by enabling initiatives such as car shares that are often unheard of in our sector.

What’s more, when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint, our operators have a hugely important role to play in quite literally driving towards net zero. We know that if we can train and empower new recruits to become more environmentally conscious, this is a great start. Indeed, by training them with the latest techniques in reducing idling time and burning 20% less fuel across all our machines, this is one of the best ways that the workforce can make a difference.

Committed to recruiting local people for local jobs, in the last year alone we have recruited and trained 40 new recruits in Devon and Cornwall with no previous industry or operator experience, giving them the chance to skill up from a standing start. In an industry that is known historically for being predominantly male dominated, encouragingly within this number, this includes nine female recruits – and we expect to see even more balance in the workforce in the months and years to come as we actively promote that our sites are welcoming to all.

With the new recruits working across our sites near St Austell, as well as our two other major regional quarries in Ivybridge and Kingsteignton, the training programme is overseen by a team of three training managers at both a national and local level.

Offering the chance for operators to learn from the basics up, they not only receive training in simulators on site to learn everything about revs, gears, and parking to drive as efficiently and safely as possible, but they are also put to the test by working on various equipment alongside a qualified operator. Taking training seriously, Chepstow requires new operators to log 150 hours before they’re signed off, with all operators being trained and accredited under the industry standard with MPQC. They also need to achieve the national Quarrying standard accreditation. Not only is this approach critical to maintaining safe and sustainable operations at our sites in Devon and Cornwall, we also apply it across all our sites across the country, requiring all new operators to demonstrate continued competence through both close observation and regular assessment.

Of course, the proof is in the pudding when it comes to results - the investment made to date is certainly paying dividends for the company. In July 2021 (at the peak of the operator shortage) we had 17.5% lost working hours every month due to operator challenges. However, by March 2022, this has dropped massively to just 3.4% working hours lost. Within this time, the assets on site and client’s production request has grown almost 40-45%, highlighting the scale of the achievement of the team in the South West.

But that’s not all – Chepstow Plant International will continue to invest heavily over the coming 12 months to further upskill its operators in the region and cement its growing reputation as a desirable employer of choice. We’ll also be recruiting 12 new operators in the immediate coming months.

Watch this space for further updates and success stories about our training initiatives across the UK in the coming months!

By Eric Fairhurst

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