After our Learning & Development Thought Leader's Conference, we've put together Q&A's with some of our speakers, based on customer questions.
Below we speak to Alison Lamplough, Head of Operational Training & Apprenticeships for Laing O’Rourke, the internationally renowned engineering, construction and asset management enterprise. Laing O’Rourke were named ‘Apprentice Employer of the Year’ at the 2016 Construction Industry Apprenticeship Awards. At the conference, Alison shared her story of how Laing O’Rourke are investing in people for the long term with the skills they need now and those they will need in the future.
How did you go about defining your apprenticeship strategy?
We had a clear strategy in regards of the types and numbers of apprentices we needed based on two key factors the work that we had already won and the jobs that we were at the preferred bidder stage. This gives us a clear line of sight for our apprentice requirements for the next 5 years. What we needed to do with the advent of the apprenticeship levy was to understand the impact that this would have on our ability to afford these apprentices.
We took the forecasting tool from the Governments Digital Apprenticeship Service and expanded it to allow us to forecast as far as we needed to in to the future. As our apprenticeships range from a level 2 to 6 we needed to understand how quickly our levy funds would be used up and the cost of the co-contribution.
By developing the forecasting tool we have been able to forecast how quickly our Apprenticeship levy will be used up and at what point we will go into con-contribution. This has been a really useful exercise as we’ve identified that the monthly co-contribution figure will different every month depending on the type and mixture of apprenticeship and their end points, so sometimes we will have a 10k co-contribution figure other months it will be in excess of 100k. With this level of clarity around what the additional costs will be to our business we are now able to plan in advance to make sure we have the additional funds that we are likely to need. This means our planned strategy won’t really change as a result of the apprenticeship levy.
What is your best advice in setting up apprenticeships within an organisation?
I would say that making sure there is commitment to taking on apprentices and providing them with the level of support and training that will be necessary to make them successful. Before we agree to any part of our business taking on an apprentice, we make sure a whole range of support is in place and everyone that will be involved knows the part they have to play.
How do you make the construction sector appealing to the next generation?
This is a very big question and one what the industry is working hard to achieve. As a sector we already do huge amounts of work in terms of school engagement to try to support new entrants into the industry we also work with teachers and those providing careers guidance. One of the things we have to tackle is the myth that construction is laying bricks and plastering. There are a huge number of careers in the industry and what could be more exciting than building the world that we live in! Walking past iconic building and infrastructure projects and saying 'I helped build that!' The industry is working together as a priority to tackle what will continue to be a significant challenge.
How do you retain employees in a sector that seems to be quite transient- is there any tie in or payback if they leave during/after an apprenticeship?
No we don’t have the tie in, particularly at apprenticeship level. We pay our apprentices a very competitive wage, we don’t pay apprenticeship rates. The opportunity to earn overtime on top of that is also an incentive. As you say it is a transient industry and we think our unique offering is our people which is why provide good training, we pay well and we have an ongoing order book which means we have continuation of employment. The ongoing employment has got to be a better position than moving from one subcontract job to hopefully the next.
How do you celebrate success as individuals or as a collective?
We believe that celebrating success is really important so we have graduation events wherever possible to celebrate success.
Do you use internal coaches and/or mentors with your apprentices? If you do, what tips can you share?
We do, I would refer back to my presentation when I mentioned the whole support network we put around apprentices. My advice would be make sure mentors/coaches whatever the network looks like, is trained and committed.