A win-win situation

Ultraframe’s design and development director Andrew Thomson explains how apprentices and graduate trainees are a key part of the company’s innovation strategy and a successful route to tackling the widely publicised skills shortage within the wider industry.

We value our staff immensely, and many have been with us for 20 years or more, meaning we have a huge bank of knowledge and experience at our disposal.

While this experience is invaluable in developing and enhancing our product range, we supplement this periodically with intakes of apprentices and graduate trainees, and it is a delight to see these young people grow and flourish and benefit from their fresh ways of thinking as they learn and develop with us.

Apprenticeships are available across many areas of the business, offering opportunities to learn skills in everything from engineering and product development, through to IT and accounting.

Technical specifications manager Nigel Gordon currently has two apprentices working within his team in the R&D department. They are working towards an apprenticeship in Design and Development, which will see them gain a HNC after four years and with one extra year they will get a HND.

While the qualifications are obviously an essential part of someone completing an apprenticeship, there are many less tangible, yet absolutely invaluable benefits to both the apprentices and the business that simply can’t be gained by learning at college. Things such as the ability to plan, organise and prioritise work, learning leadership and management skills through working on real live projects, developing their communication skills, and the ability to be flexible and adapt is a key strength.

By the end of their apprenticeship, we aim for apprentices to be multi-skilled designers, able to work on every Ultraframe roofing system, as well as developing the systems of the future. For the business, I believe that one of the key benefits of apprenticeships is that they can be tailored to specific job roles, making them flexible to the needs of the business.

Injecting some youthful talent can add a whole new dimension to a workplace, bringing with it a fresh perspective and new ideas. This, in turn, can excite existing employees and spark a boost in overall business productivity. It’s a win-win situation for everyone as far as I’m concerned.

Graduate trainees are also a key recruitment focus for Ultraframe – bringing new talent into the business and nurturing this talent while providing a structured development plan for the individuals – demonstrated by the fact that in the last three years alone, nine graduates have joined the business in technical roles.

For example, Jack Whitehurst is an ETO Programmer in the IS department who joined the company three years ago as a graduate trainee.

He said: “After three years of working at Ultraframe, I am very happy that I was accepted to be a member of the IS team. It gave me the opportunity to take on a career path that I was a bit unsure about at first, and learn a handful of new and useful skills that have allowed me to excel in my working life.

“Glass and glazing was an area that I never actually thought of while I was applying for jobs after completing a degree in mechanical engineering. However, a lot of the skills have been transferable and have enabled me to hit the ground running.

“It is an industry that I can see myself staying within because I feel like there is a good opportunity for progression. Ultraframe has always treated me well, with the whole company having a family feel about it, and all departments communicating well together to ensure company success. With Ultraframe’s creativity and ingenuity, any apprentice or graduate trainee employed here will not be short of work or challenges.”

The skills shortage within our industry has been well documented and is something that we must all address to ensure that the industry continues to grow and develop.

Aattracting young new talent into our business and helping these young people to develop their skills within the conservatory sector is just one of the ways we are helping to address the skills shortage.