The Skills Gap

12th January 2015

Hello everyone, and welcome to my first blog of 2015. I hope you have all had an enjoyable New Year, and are looking forward to what the year will bring.

For my new blog, I thought I’d give my views how the Wernick Group deals with an issue facing many construction companies at the moment; skills shortages.

The Skills Gap

One of the things I most enjoy about the Wernick Group being totally independent is that we are able to control our own destiny. The less we can leave to outside influence or chance, the better. This is especially true when it comes to our employees. Underpinning the success of any business is the quality of their workforce. If our success is in our hands, then it stands to reason the quality of our employees is also something for which we should take a degree of responsibility.

With a diverse range of services provided by the Group, the skillset of our staff needs to be equally as broad. From carpenters and forklift drivers to hire controllers and contracts managers. There are a number of measures we take within the Group to maintain a supply of skilled staff.

The most intensive of these is our Graduate Training Programme. Anyone with a construction related degree can apply, and successful applicants will spend two years working in a variety of roles within the Group, including manufacturing at our factory in South Wales and management in one of our many hire depots around the country. Managers in the Wernick Group are given a great deal of autonomy to meet their goals, and the Graduate Training Programme is a way of ensuring we can draw from a pool of talented managers.

Not only is the Graduate Training Programme important because of the culture of the Group, I believe it benefits from it as well. Graduates are mentored by the Group’s Managing Directors throughout the Programme as well as attending quarterly progress meetings. Our short chains of command mean graduates can get valuable feedback from all levels of the business.

Where suitable, we also accept apprentices looking to gain experience. There are three apprentices currently at our manufacturing base in South Wales, and out of the 50 that have already passed through the factory we still employ 19. As larger construction companies persist in keeping modular techniques on the fringes of the industry, this offers experience with modular buildings that would otherwise be hard to come by.

Retention of staff is another important factor in maintaining a skilled workforce. Thanks to the nature of modular, the number of people we employ can remain steady throughout the year; less subject to the booms and busts of the wider market. Though obviously keeping staff is only effective if you keep them skilled, so we have a number of procedures in place that ensure our employees are informed when refresher training is required.

There are many challenges that face the construction industry as a whole which are equally applicable to modular construction. However, companies specialising in modular are a lot more resistant to some of these problems, and I am thankful to say that, at least for the Wernick Group, shortages of skilled staff have never been a limiting factor of our success.