We established the VGC Academy in 2019 to bring all our learning and development activities under one umbrella.
It ensures training opportunities are accessible and transparent to all our staff. As well as apprenticeships, staff benefit from technical training, our behavioural safety programme, ICE-approved graduate scheme and competency development programme.
What is the competency development programme?
We felt for a long time that our industry focuses on technical qualifications such as plant tickets, setting out, or confined spaces, but there weren’t enough opportunities for people to focus on competencies and behaviours.
The project started following successful behavioural leadership on projects such as the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme – a flagship project that came in ahead of time, under budget and won lots of awards for collaboration and behavioural change.
We wanted to consider what successful behaviours look like at VGC, and how these are linked to the VGC values.
Therefore, together with some external specialists, our HR team undertook a project to identify what success looks like at VGC. They ran skills audits, workshops and interviews across the company.
We identified three competency clusters (delivering results, strategy and planning, and collaborative relationships) and 12 associated behaviours which lead to success.
Then we mapped these to behavioural profiles for each role in VGC. The profile allows every employee and their manager to compare themselves to the expected behaviour level for their role. They can then agree areas for an individual’s development and progression.
Our competency development programme is a way for staff to plan their personal and career progression. We want everyone to achieve their potential, in whichever way that is best for them.
Why did we develop the programme?
It is widely acknowledged in the construction industry that there is a skills shortage. For example, a recent City and Guilds report says that the UK rail industry faces critical skills shortage by 2025. As it becomes harder to recruit after Brexit and COVID-19, the current skills gaps are likely to widen.
VGC’s strategic response is to focus on
- attracting new entrants to the industry
- retaining and developing our existing workforce.
For the first of these, alongside our resourcing teams who recruit skilled workers for roles, our CSR team runs targeted programmes to engage with hard-to-reach groups. These are people who may not have considered construction as a career option. We have programmes which focus on women, young people, ex-offenders and military veterans.
The other area focuses on retaining our existing workforce.
We do this by creating an environment where people feel valued, engaged and included. This includes developing their talents, and providing opportunities for career progression, which in turn increases employee satisfaction. Our core development program is one way to help deliver this.
Developing softer skills
Site-based staff have historically been given opportunities to develop their supervisory skills through NVQ qualifications (eg Level 3 Occupational Works Supervisor; Level 4 in Site Supervision). However, the training for these qualifications is generally trade-specific and technical.
Our ambition is to develop site supervisors’ softer skills – skills like emotional intelligence, self-awareness, personal effectiveness, working collaboratively. This will lead to a superior quality of site supervision, resulting in a more productive workforce.
Our competency development programme offers a map for personal development, beyond an initial apprenticeship and as people progress up into level 3, 4, 5 and 6 qualifications.
What does the training look like?
We worked closely with our training provider, Onion People Development, to create a programme that will ensure progression through the levels.
It includes interactive core, intermediate, management and leadership modules up to an advanced level, all supported by specialist skills workshops and coaching. These will develop the behavioural competency of the whole workforce.
Despite the challenges of COVID, the development of our people remains a key priority. Behaviours such as resilience, problem-solving, client focus and team leadership are as important as ever. Our teams adapted swiftly to new ways of working, and the modules have been delivered online most successfully.
In the future, we expect to gain value from an effective blend of virtual and face-to-face training.
What will staff gain?
The programme helps people to increase their awareness of what successful behaviours look like, and how their actions affect, impact and influence others.
It will also provide managers and supervisors with the skills to support their staff, and to make sure that they can achieve every day. We will ensure they can develop, coach and mentor their teams.
These are life skills and are transferable across all industries and roles – whether you are a site supervisor, receptionist, engineer, project manager or finance assistant. We want our people to become positive role models within VGC and the wider industry.
We believe this support for the people who work for us will allow us to attract the best talent to work with us on the current and future exciting infrastructure projects across the UK.
What is next for the VGC Academy?
Learning and development activity will be at the forefront of VGC’s activities this year.
We were delighted to be awarded funding from the CITB Leadership and Management grant to continue developing and delivering the programme. The award allows us to accelerate our plans, which include 235 training days for 42 learners in 2021.
The next steps for the competency development programme are management and leadership modules, as well as some shorter high impact sessions to increase personal effectiveness. These will be based on the outcomes of this year’s personal development plans (PDP).
We will continue to deliver technical skills training. I am also delighted that we will run the core and intermediate modules for site supervisors from the spring.
We will relaunch our behavioural safety programme this year. The new workforce leaders’ programme will still have behaviour-based safety as a core element, with enrichment modules including fairness, inclusion and respect, mental health and modern slavery awareness.
We will continue recruiting and supporting apprentices. We already have over 7% of our workforce on earn-and-learn programmes, and we plan to increase the number of apprentice entry positions across VGC over the next five years.
Our weekly staff updates will give further information on how people can apply to take part in the programmes.