Training the Trainer – Why recruiting on your values could save the sector!

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We’re all aware of the skills shortages making the headlines over recent months – from HGV drivers to a plethora of blue-collar roles within Construction. It’s a very uncertain and quite scary state of affairs, but beneath the headlines, another crisis is emerging. Something which in truth has been brewing for a long time, but gets very little noise or attention – and that’s the shortages plaguing the Further Education sector.

Training Providers including ourselves at RE:geon Training, have struggled in recent months, or let’s face it, recent years, to recruit high quality, vocational lecturers. In the current climate of skilled workers being in such short supply, there’s very little motivation for many of these experts to step out of their world and dip their toes into teaching. Especially when the financial rewards of working within their own industry are much greater and the uncertainty of the pandemic has created a stronger desire for “home comforts” – stripping us of wanting to have any more drastic change within our lives.  

The problem is, that without the right trainers, not enough learners can progress through the ranks. Couple that with the UK’s dire need for green growth skills, and we have an even bigger problem on our hands due to lack of support and in-action.

With the rising pressures that businesses in the UK are now under to achieve Net Zero, training more people in the green skills of the future is not only a ‘nice to have’, it’s an absolute necessity. Alongside our ‘typical’ Construction skillsets, we need a future workforce skilled in the retrofitting of homes and installing of low-carbon heating – skills that are focussed on targeting marginalised communities, with the aim to slash unemployment and carbon emissions in one.

So, you’d think the next step would be simple, plying all of our resource and energy into recruiting and developing this workforce – but it’s proving to be an almost impossible task that’s leaving us to fall behind considerably. Research last year indicated that to get where we need to be in our Net Zero journey, we need more than 36,000 trained Retrofit Co-ordinators. A role which as part of the new PAS requirements has never existed until now. Mainly because the requirements of the future is still a chapter yet to be written. But with just 500 RC’s recorded last year, along with very few experienced trainers to bring our rising stars and green leaders to the forefront, it would seem that we are nowhere near where we should be. It’s the same story with the likes of heat pump installation, an essential step towards low-carbon homes. For every installer of fossil fuel systems, primarily gas boilers, there’s currently only 1 accredited heat pump installer. A staggering ratio, yet the Government still has an expectation of installing 600,000 heat pumps each year by 2028. What’s worse, is that fewer than 10 of the UK’s 192 further education providers deliver courses in renewable energy, underlining a shortage of instructors and trainers. It’s not just a tall order, it’s completely impossible to move forward.

It’s no surprise that I, like I’m sure many training providers, spend many a moment completely baffled that there is no recognition in the direct correlation between incentivising the trainers of the future and closing these unnecessary and unwanted skills gaps. Offering the likes of maths and science teachers an additional £3000 for their commitment is undoubtedly well deserved, but where are the matching incentives for the builders? The engineers? The plumbers? and so many other skilled professionals that we so desperately need to make the jump into education? That’s where there’s a complete disconnect.

So, what can we, in the FE sector do?

Waiting for the Government to come to their senses on this one could take some time, and as I’m never one to just let things fall to pure chance, I made it my mission a few months ago to take matters into my own hands, with the incredible support and backing of my team – along with the wider group in which we are now part of.

To better support businesses in the closing of skills gaps across Construction and Retrofit and to ensure the North East as a whole is better equipped with the tools and talent required to achieve Net Zero, we need to build a workforce for the green jobs of the future. As we know, these roles haven’t necessarily existed before, so using the current model of simply recruiting trades into training isn’t going to tick every box. So that’s why I’m working on a new model.

At RE:geon Training we’re here to rewrite the script when it comes to recruiting high quality, vocational lecturers.

When you’re presented with a major skills crisis where there’s very few trainers coming through the door, the best thing you can do as part of your recruitment strategy is focus on the soft skills!

Training and education isn’t just about the subject matter. It’s about the way you inspire the room, engage your audience, and empower your people to interpret the subject matter and use it to frame their next steps. It’s not the what – but the how. As part of our current recruitment strategy here at RE:geon, we’re focussing our efforts on building a green team to deliver on a variety of contracts that we’ve secured and set to start in July. But we aren’t just seeking anyone. Although July is coming fast, we’re firmly within the mindset of looking for the RIGHT people who present key traits that we can suitably develop into the green roles we require. Rather than basing it solely on what sits within CV parameters. We are looking for people who are hungry to make a real difference to the world around us, and people who will go above and beyond to make that happen.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills, also known as common skills or core skills, are intangible traits of key individuals within your team that add real value to your business or organisation. These include critical thinking, problem solving, public speaking, professional writing, teamwork, digital literacy, leadership, professional attitude, work ethic, career management and intercultural fluency – to name but a few.

Having great soft skills can be a huge game-changer for both the employee and employer. It can be the difference between getting people to believe in what you’ve got to say or completely being forgotten. The difference between advancing a project and hitting goals or falling at the first hurdle. The difference between trying to close skills gaps, and leaving an even bigger gap than before! Soft skills form part of your brand’s culture and should largely underpin your values. A key soft skill that we need for the future of our green workforce and trainer vacancies is Adaptability.

Adaptability falls out of our Value for Growth.

Adaptability is essential for thriving in a rapidly changing work environment. (To say that’s what we’re currently in would be a serious understatement!). Adaptability enables up to learn new skills and behaviours with pace. Exactly what we need when it comes to the construction of a green workforce, and their trainers!

Being adaptable is a special skill as it unlocks additional soft skills like interpersonal skills, communication, creative thinking and problem-solving. Those who are adaptable are more likely to achieve better outcomes as priorities shift or as setbacks occur, most notably because they are already comfortable making strategic adjustments. It’s quite simply the perfect job spec for green.

To find the elusive trainers that we so desperately need in the FE sector, we must first accept that they do not exist as we know them. We need to create them. They will be in the most unlikely of places with a wealth of experiences behind them to shape the future of our leaders in ways we can’t even comprehend right now. They will be ready and waiting for their potential to be unlocked. To be nurtured and developed into the roles they were born to fill.

Whilst trainers don’t grow on trees, they do GROW – in a variety of forms, and I am confident that when we uncover these truly unique and aspiring individuals, they will play a profound role in our future. We as an industry just need to get better at searching for them, engaging with them and above all retaining them as we strive to make our mark in this Net Zero journey.

Our commitment to the provision of green growth skills and Regeneration in Construction is what sets us apart as a Training Provider. We are the first in our region to prioritise the need for a future workforce in this area and as such, our inhouse green team of engagement officers, community partners, trainers and assessors will be the key to redefining the industry. If you want to be part of this incredible change and would like to find out more about the roles that we are currently recruiting for, then please check out our about page – www.regeon.co.uk/about.

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