Apprentice Initiatives

maj 14, 2008
Trend Control Systems is supporting the long-term interests of the building services industry through an ongoing campaign to attract apprentices. Its efforts this year resulted in 50 Apprenticeships in Building Services Engineering, out of 550 who responded to the campaign. Seven are employed directly by Trend, the remainder by 26 Trend partner companies – independent building system integrators who install Trend products.

“The UK building services industry will suffer if the present lack of trained Building Service engineers is allowed to continue, while we and our partners need trained technicians to maintain business growth”, observed Tim Darkes, Managing Director of Horsham-based Trend Control Systems, a specialist in building management systems.

“For many years, Trend has successfully recruited and trained apprentices; providing them with certificated qualifications, along with Trend product training and hands-on learning. However, Trend partners have not always been able to match this resource, so they requested our help to fill the industry-wide need for new technicians”.

“The fact that we received 550 applications this year shows clearly that many young people are attracted to a technical career in building services. We hope those we were unable to employ are successful in finding training elsewhere within the industry”.

Trend develops its Apprentice Scheme

Following the success of the scheme in 2007, Trend recruited Jennifer Fyson as Apprentice Scheme Manager to develop the scheme and repeat the recruitment process for 2008’s intake. Fyson, who has an extensive background in education and training, commented: “I joined Trend because its scheme was innovative and clearly provided great prospects for apprentices”. Fyson is also fostering team spirit and a sense of belonging to the “Trend family” throughout training, which will aid retention of time-served apprentices.

“Trend is taking the lead in driving long-term training and qualifications by working with 17 colleges and training providers to tailor courses appropriate to the needs of the building services industry”, she added. “We are also working with the Learning & Skills Council and Sector Skills Council to consider new and innovative ways of delivering training nationwide”.

This year Trend also took the innovative step of collaborating with a local college, Central Sussex College in Crawley, as part of the Government-sponsored Engineering and Technology Board’s (ETB) “Lecturers into Industry” pilot program. This scheme brings local businesses together with college lecturers in engineering and science subjects, to help lecturers understand authentic business practices and challenges. They can then incorporate this “real world” knowledge into the college curriculum.

Trend supported the scheme by inviting a lecturer from Central Sussex College to spend significant time in each of its engineering departments, to understand the skills needed, so its training provision can match requirements.

Background to the Trend Attitude Apprenticeship Scheme

At the start of the 2006/2007 school year Trend did not have an Apprenticeship Scheme that supported its partners. The company asked Loretta Wootton, a Trend Project Manager who had herself served an Apprenticeship, to discover partner companies’ needs and concerns, develop a scheme to match those needs and then with a close-knit team manage a recruitment campaign.

“The problems included finding candidates with motivation, matching college courses with training needs, encouraging local colleges to run necessary courses and retaining individuals both during and after training,” she explained. “We developed a strongly branded scheme called the ‘Trend Attitude Apprenticeship Scheme’, reflecting the need for candidates with the right attitude. After presenting the scheme to partners, they agreed to take 43 apprentices to work in their businesses, while another seven would be apprenticed directly by Trend”.

A three-month marketing campaign was set in place to encourage applicants. Trend especially wished to attract younger candidates, so used Connexions Direct, a nationwide service that helps 14-19 year olds in particular to help them find colleges or choose careers. Trend also went through EEF, which runs a nationwide website to find apprentices.

The campaign was supported through a website www.TrendAttitude.co.uk, careers events and recruitment stands in shopping centres.

Trend used a three-part online aptitude test to aid selection. It was provided by SHL Group, a leading provider of psychometric assessment and development solutions. The tests for numeracy, language and dependability were selected to ensure the individual would cope technically, be able to communicate effectively with customers and have the right attitude. “Interestingly it was the people with the highest dependability score who were most likely to be among the 50 selected for apprenticeships”, observed Loretta Wootton.