Three Peakers Ride Again
Six years ago I took part in the UK 3 Peaks 24 hour challenge to raise funds for Greenfingers. We were a group of landscape professionals coming together for a very good cause. Three years later I re-joined the group, this time we decided to go back and climb the 3 highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales but cycle from the foot of each mountain to the foot of the next in just 5 days. It was a massive challenge for some of us! But the bonus was raising over £26,000 for our industry charity.
This September on Sunday 18th,
Apprenticeship Levy Are we ready?
There has been lots written in the press about the new apprenticeship levy, that is being introduced in April 2017. I believe it will change how we view and run apprenticeships beyond recognition. There will certainly be an increase of cash in the system. In the Horticultural Industry our new trailblazer standard has been approved and is now ready to be used as the framework for training operatives and supervisors. The whole principle of the trailblazers are to have good quality apprenticeship programmes that are employer led. If the reforms work as expected the whole process should be very straightforward from start to finish and this should have an impact on the skills gap.
Young Enterprise Company Programme
I had a really enjoyable couple of days with teams from the Hertfordshire Young Enterprise this weekend. I had been asked to join the Mayor of Welwyn Hatfield District Council (WHDC) Cllr Lynne Sparks and Rachel Walsh also of WHDC to judge a mini competition linked to the youth company programme. Sixteen enterprising school student companies had been invited to come and set up trade stands to test their entrepreneurial and business skills.
The teams have been learning how to run real a real company that they have set up themselves, with help and advice from local business volunteers.
Neil Cain Operations Director wins National Apprenticeship Award
Huge congratulations to Neil Cain, our Operations Director who was last night named the City & Guilds Apprentice Champion of the Year at the National Apprenticeship Awards at an exclusive ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House. This was one of the most coveted awards and Neil fought off competition from hundreds of other apprentices around England to be awarded the top prize.
The Awards, are run by the National Apprenticeship Service and recognise excellence in two areas: businesses that grow their own talent with apprentices and apprentices who have made a significant contribution to their workplaces.
Neil was chosen as the winner in recognition of the outstanding contribution he has made to apprenticeships since starting as one in 1980 in the Sunderland Parks Department.
The Power of Partnerships
While our contracts are largely self-sufficient, it often makes sense for us to share certain equipment between depots, a small example for us being the remote control lawnmower which we use when areas of grass are too steep for us to mow with conventional ones. We run a simple diary and contract managers able able to book this machine up in advance.
This thought led me to contemplate the benefit of partnerships, not just within companies, but between them as well. All business owners can get into the mindset of thinking of themselves as completely self-sufficient, but the more I see of what can be gained through partnership,
Driver Style add to our Quartix vehicle Tracking System
As a company we have been extremely pleased with the features available on our Quartix vehicle tracking system. The most recent addition is driver style information and we are now starting to make real use of it. I am convinced it will improve our driver’s safety and make our fleet more efficient.
The Quartix driving tracking technology that we use in our vehicles is delivering so many benefits to our company, to our customers and to the environment as a whole. The new management tool to improve drivers’ style is now giving us a great deal of control over efficiency,
Visit to House of Commons
As part of National Apprentice week I was delighted to attend the ‘Made by Apprentices’ event held at the House of Commons today (10/3/2015), I was joined by Jack Peters one of our Horticultural Apprentices. The event was for SME’s to showcase what apprentices can achieve and how they can help businesses flourish. Both Andrew Jones MP & Apprenticeship Ambassador in Parliament and Skills Minster Nick Boles both took time to speak to Jack and learn more about his story with John O’Conner Grounds Maintenance. During the afternoon event both myself and Jack were able to speak to business yet to get on board with apprenticeships and hopefully we have convinced them of the many benefits;
Made by Apprentices
Really pleased to see that apprenticeships are back on the political agenda and gaining widespread news coverage. Labour are stating that if elected they will guarantee apprenticeship places for every school leaver that ‘gets the grade’ by 2020. The conservative response from Rt Hon Grant Shapps was to state that under the current government apprenticeships have doubled and if re-elected they will put three million people into apprentice places. So the clear winner is the apprenticeship programme, it will continue to get government support and has good will from both sides of the political spectrum.
At John O’Conner we will continue to invest in our apprenticeship programme and skills training.
In this county no matter how wet the winter or spring has been we always seem to be fearful of a hosepipe ban or water restrictions being placed upon us. But perhaps if we all used water more sparingly then this might not be the case. I guess because we live on an island and water is a limited resource it has the effect of focusing our minds. On a recent visit to Alexandra Palace I was pleased to see that our staff have developed a simple and effective solution to saving water. I have previously mentioned this but it was great to see it for myself.
Training and Development
As we start to move into the Autumn our contract managers minds will have one eye on their winter training programme. At John O’Conner we have established a Training and Development Policy that actively encourages all staff to take a career focused approach to their employment and we are committed to helping our people realise their full potential through continual improvement and development. This commitment is evidenced through our Investors in People accreditation which was re awarded in the summer of 2014
As a ‘people focused’ business it is our pledge to:
Actively encourage and support our people to gain the skills and qualifications required to meet the needs of our business and to support their future employability.