It’s no secret that labour is one of the biggest portions of construction costs. With that in mind, we work hard to get as much as we can out of our people - not by grinding them down, but by building them up, investing in their skills, and making them more independent and able to carry out more complicated tasks.
Our apprenticeship program is an example of this approach. We’ve invested in an apprenticeship program that really helps our younger guys get the most out of their training. This approach works really well for everyone involved - they get better, more valuable skills, while we get the benefits of high-quality, switched on staff members. Here’s how we do it:
Our apprenticeship approach revolves around our Thursday training sessions. Every apprentice has their practical work to do during the day, but they also have a decent amount of written work to get through. To really get value out of this written work, apprentices need to see it as more than a box-ticking exercise - they need to be able to connect it to what they do during the day, and see how it’s relevant. This is how it gets really bedded in to their practice.
To help with this, we’ve enlisted Tony Hoffman, our Slab supervisor for Quality. Tony’s been building since 1974, so he has a whole library of stories and experiences to help bring these things to life. Every Thursday, he has all the apprentices around to his place. First, he gives them a meal. Then, they spend a solid couple hours going through the written work as a team.
For Tony, this is the best way to make sure our guys learn what they need to know. “If you don’t do something like this, the books end up under their beds.”
MAKING IT RELEVANT
One of the most important things we try to achieve in our Thursday training is to make it relevant. Tony connects the work in their book work to their day-to-day work out in the field - that helps to bring it to life. “I try to make it interesting by connecting it to the jobs they’ve been working on and the things they’ve been up against.”
Luke, one of our apprentices, agrees with this summary. Luke has recently joined us after 6 years at in the hospitality industry, and is loving getting stuck in to his apprenticeship. “Tony helps us make sure we’re answering the questions in the book work correctly, then makes sure we understand why we’re writing down those answers.”
Tony expects to see some results from these sessions pretty soon - most of the apprentices will be done with their book work by the end of this year, and some may even be completely signed off with their foundation certificate at the end of the year. Pretty fast!
THE BIGGER PICTURE
Like most organisations that take on apprentices, we work closely with BCITO. Training Advisor Michael Slade is our point person over there, and he’s been helping us get our apprenticeship processes up and running.
He works with a lot of organisations, so he has a wide-angle view of our program: “They’re definitely in the upper 5% of organisations, in terms of going above and beyond to make people better.”
He made a particular note of the non-building skills we teach our apprentices - things like how to manage your finances and buy your own house. “Not everyone is going to be with Tidy Slabs forever, and the Tidy Slabs team know that - so they build people up with skills that will help them for the rest of their lives, leaving them in better condition than when they arrived.”
THE BUSINESS IMPACT
All this comes together to have a really positive impact on our business. By having weekly, in-depth training, Tony can make sure all the apprentices are on the right track and know what they’re doing. This means they can be more independent, because Tony knows what they’re capable of.
He can also make sure that our systems and processes are really bedded in to our apprentices. This helps make us more efficient - “If someone turns up to a job they haven’t been working on, they can just pick it up, rather than stand their scratching their head,” says Tony.
As we said at the start of this post, all these things work together. Ultimately, they benefit our clients..Investing in capable, confident staff members gives us the ability to move more quickly, be more efficient and deliver to a high standard. It’s a win win for everyone involved.