Leadership – City & County Of Swansea
Leadership – City & County Of Swansea
After many years of minimum investment in its staff, the City & County of Swansea’s Corporate Building & Property Services department realised that it needed a properly trained and skilled workforce to meet current and future challenges. In 2007 it drew together a range of training and development initiatives into a structured workforce development strategy designed to ensure a sustainable supply of skilled staff.
Parts of the programme are aimed at providing opportunities for existing manual and craft employees to upskill and retrain, or to develop in-house supervisory and management capabilities. But the centrepiece is the ‘cradle to grave’ strategy to engage young people, through apprenticeships and an innovative work-related education programme for under-16s.
The judges felt that the Corporate Building Services (CBS) team leading the programme demonstrated real commitment, and they were impressed by the decision to go into schools to help influence career choices. The judges also noted that the CBS approach is helping to close the skills gap with the private sector, and should have a positive influence on other local authorities and client organisations.
Corporate Building Services is Swansea Council’s building maintenance and technical department, providing services across the authority’s range of housing and public buildings. The workforce development strategy was implemented to maximise the skills and capabilities of the existing staff and ensure a continuing supply of skilled employees for the future.
CBS works closely with schools and the careers service to help schoolchildren gain an understanding of its role and the career opportunities on offer. Its work-related education programme allows students to attend the organisation for one day a week over 30 weeks to engage in ‘real-life’ work-related tasks. A Saturday morning trade school has been introduced for year 10 and 11 pupils, aimed at developing an understanding of construction and the workplace. It runs over eight weeks and combines practical instruction in skills such as bricklaying and carpentry with site visits and project-based assignments. Pupils completing the scheme are offered an interview for an apprenticeship within CBS or with local contractors.
An example of the strategy’s commitment to equality of opportunity is the active encouragement of girls through the Construction Connections programme. The participation of girls at the Saturday school has reached 15% and is steadily rising.
What came through strongly in the CBS submission was the commitment and enthusiasm of its team in motivating and encouraging existing staff and reaching out to the next generation. Much of the work involved in developing training initiatives, organising mentoring, even running the Saturday morning trade school is done in addition to team members’ day jobs.
The team impressed by its willingness to avoid the insularity and temptation to play safe that often afflicts council departments. Each member of the team is highly motivated, willing to embrace new ideas, think laterally and build links with the wider organisation and external bodies. Team values such as celebrating success, sharing ideas and learning, and being open-minded have contributed to the effectiveness of the strategy.
The long list of awards gained by the team and the workforce development strategy over the last few years speaks for itself. Among the wins is the 2009 National Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE) best service team award in the Employee and Equality Initiative category.
Arguably the most significant achievement is the team’s success in introducing young people to construction and bringing a steady supply of apprentices into the organisation. The work-related education programme has enabled hundreds of young people to gain experience in the construction, mechanical and electrical trades. Many have gone on to join CBS as apprentices. The apprenticeship programme began in 2004, but the strategy has ensured that the number of apprenticeships has remained steady through difficult economic times; since 2004, 81 apprentices have been taken on – almost 25% of the manual workforce. The scheme has been extended to cover technical, administration and specialist disciplines.
In March 2009 CBS achieved a long-held ambition – Investors in People accreditation. But even more significantly, the department has made itself an exemplar of good practice in the public sector. One of its most significant wins was the 2008 Building Services award for training for its work-related education and Construction Connection programmes, where it was up against stiff competition from well-resourced multinational companies.
Martin Nicholls, Head of Corporate Building and Property Services, City and County of Swansea
“This award recognises the tremendous effort made by staff at all levels to develop a robust workforce development strategy in line with our corporate objectives and succession planning principles and to show that sometimes the public sector can lead on such an initiative is particularly rewarding”