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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Retailer benefits from training partnerships
Article Type: Notes and news From: Industrial and Commercial Training, Volume 42, Issue 7
A further-education college and a high-street retailer have teamed up to create an on-site workplace-learning center for staff.
Wilkinson is a family-owned business that has been running since 1930. The company has two distribution centers, a head office and 325 stores around the UK.
Since 2000 Wilkinson has been working with North Nottinghamshire College (NNC) in Bassetlaw, offering a broad range of training programs funded by the Government.
The partnership began with the provision of National Vocational Qualifications in warehousing and distribution at levels 2 and 3. Since then it has grown to the point where the college has its own dedicated training room in Wilkinson’s distribution center, where candidates can work towards a range of qualifications such as CLAIT, ESOL and work-related NVQs.
As Wilkinson has grown, so has the range of qualifications. Wilkinson employs roughly 1,500 people at its distribution center. Many have limited academic experience and low aspirations when they join the organization.
As well as the obvious benefits of giving its workers the qualifications to do their jobs, Wilkinson saw that staff retention, attendance, productivity and morale were all areas that could be improved by a full-scale training program. The company wanted to create the environment in which a diverse workforce could fulfill its potential.
Wilkinson and NNC agree an annual contract to train a specified number of learners, with success-rate targets built into the agreement. These targets are reviewed monthly, and success is measured through improved productivity.
The management team looked at the qualifications available and agreed a clear career path from each position within the center. This means that staff who want to move forward know exactly what is required of them.
Although many of the qualifications funded by Wilkinson are job related, there are a few self-funded courses as well. Employees can apply to the Wilkinson open-access training scheme fund for support towards the cost of their learning.
There are more than 150 staff taking training at the moment. Some are taking work-related courses to improve their prospects, some are concentrating on personal development and some have signed up for basic skills such as literacy and numeracy.
Courses are based around the shift patterns of the trainees. The learning itself takes various forms, depending on the courses and the learners themselves. Methods include one-to-one sessions, observations, workshops and classroom sessions. Each candidate has an individual learning plan with a progress review with his or her tutor. NNC runs road shows at Wilkinson to promote awareness of the types of learning available.
The most expensive aspect of the training is work time lost, but the initial costs are now being repaid by increased and more accurate productivity. College staff are permanently based on site to develop the rapport between the two organizations.
One obvious benefit of the partnership is a much more stable and enthusiastic workforce, working in a culture that provides lifelong learning. Improved staff retention and better attendance have reduced costs for recruitment and sickness payments.
“This wide range of learning provision in the workplace is unique in the region,” said Steve Dodd, Wilkinson training and development controller. “[It] is now inspiring other partnerships between Wilkinson and other providers because Wilkinson is seen as having a track record of successful training delivery through such partnerships.”