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Cementing best practice in building services

Cementing  best practice in building services

To produce a skilled workforce that will meet the needs of the emerging 21st-century business, Swansea Council’s Corporate Building & Property Services (CB&PS) has embarked on a major program of staff training and development. We spoke to Nigel Williams, Head of Building Services, about how this APSE Service Award winning initiative is helping the Council “resource for the future.”

Swansea Council’s Building Services department currently employs 713 employees which includes 420 tradesperson/manuals and 62 apprentices.  The annual turnover for the department which includes the Building Maintenance and Technical departments is approximately £45m internally delivered, with a further £30m procured externally.  

One of Building Services’ business objectives is to continue to maintain a 10% ratio of apprenticeship recruitment to existing skill base. The current numbers represent a 15% ratio. Financing the apprenticeship program is a responsibility held firmly by the service division and is funded directly from its business trading account.

Forecasted skills shortages, competing in the market place, inability to attract quality applicants and investing in our greatest asset staff, were all issues faced by Building Services.  As such, the department embarked on a major program of staff training and development. The aim of this new approach was to produce a skilled workforce that will meet the needs of the emerging 21st century business. The three-pronged approach aimed at developing future capacity and skills across Building Services and Swansea Council as a whole, is based on tried and tested best practice. This includes:

  1. Specifically targeting apprentices and pre-apprenticeship opportunities;
  2. Replicating mentoring processes, equality, support mechanisms, engagement. Using lessons learned from the apprentice strategy in terms of mentoring, to work with agencies such as the Refugee resettlement program, workways and Job Centre plus etc., benefiting the communities in which we all live.
  3. Inserting our Apprenticeship & Training strategy into “hard to recruit” areas such as Social services and IT etc.

As a result of a commissioning review in 2016 - which was not just about savings but also socio-economic benefits - five outcomes were identified.  These included a recommendation to grow the business though insourcing, to internally deliver key areas of activity based on benchmarking and evidenced value for money, as well as contributing to the Council’s overall corporate objective of transforming lives and strengthening the local economy.  To achieve this, the recommendation was to: offer increased local employment opportunities; launch a highly successful apprentice programme, provide more work placements, increase joint-working with local SME’s and maximise the use of community benefit clauses.  

The best practice approach of apprenticeship support, mentoring and inclusion (which was developed over a number of years) is now being replicated in workforce development of existing staff.  As with the apprentices, results have shown training with mainstream employees is far more effective when supported by work placed mentors. The objective is to revolutionise the way in which Swansea Council as a whole “resource for the future”; creating a “cradle to grave” strategy based on equality and inclusion across a wide variety of service areas.

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Promoting excellence in public services

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit unincorporated association working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.





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