Story’s Tom Wall talks about how a new purpose-built training facility is driving up standards within the company and the industry.
Training is a vital component of any company – whatever the size. It also represents a cost and one that is an unavoidable part of working in safety- critical industries.
A growing company has to decide whether or not it makes financial sense to invest in its own training offering or use the services of specialist providers.
Story Contracting chose the former option and invested in its training facility. In April, it opened the new Training Centre in Carlisle.
The building, which already belonged to the company, was refurbished by Story’s Construction division over a 14-week period to create a purpose- built facility with two training rooms to accommodate larger groups and a classroom for the delivery of smaller ratio courses, such as On Track Plant (OTP).
In addition, extra CITB touchscreen testing booths, which are used for the renewal of CPCS and CSCS registration cards, were installed.
‘This is turning out to be very popular with clients,’ says Tom.
‘Previously we only had one test booth and now we have three, including one with disabled access to make sure we can cater for all.’
A new chapter
The vast majority of training provision at Story Contracting has traditionally been used to develop the group’s own highly skilled teams for its growing
Rail, Construction and Plant divisions. This is still the case, however, requests from external clients were something the company couldn’t ignore. Since opening the new centre in April, the training team have delivered 756 courses to over 2,000 trainees.
‘The investment in our new facilities, includes the installation of smart technology and now the continued extension of the training track will make our centre a hub for producing the next generation of highly skilled operatives to the rail, plant and construction industries,’ said Tom.
‘As a contracting business, we too are feeling the challenge from the skills gaps that are out there and by investing now, we are planning to benefit from being able to develop our own skilled people.’
Been there, done it
Tom, who left farming during the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001 to join the company as a labourer/ telescopic handler driver, progressed through to training manager in May 2014. Far from being eased in, Tom and his team were the focus of an NSARE inspection on his first day in charge. The team currently includes two safety- critical trainer/assessors and three OTP trainer/assessors.
Story Contracting, a member of the Association of Rail Training Providers (ARTP), now plans to replace its current 100-metre training track with a new state-of-the-art 300-metre test track, as it expands its main depot in Carlisle. The line will include overhead catenary, a section of third rail, switches and crossings, and consist of a 1 in 25 gradient and 150mm CANT, replicating the variety of track conditions that are found on the infrastructure. Looking beyond the necessity of training, Story is using the centre and its training team to drive up standards in the business.
As well as mandatory renewals, the company now carries out regular assessments to ensure a certain quality of work is being maintained. ‘We’ve been developing through a series of changes very, very quickly,’ said Tom. ‘Over the last 18 months, especially this year, we look like a totally different provider. Although our values have not changed, we are still driven in our business by the same beliefs. Our attitude to do it right and be better at what we do is seeing us continually raising the bar.’
Says Tom, ‘Operators who don’t work on machines all of the time – say the likes of dumper drivers, roller drivers and telehandler drivers – normally renew their tickets every five years by a touchscreen test through CITB, as long as they can demonstrate their hours.
‘We have actually brought back an in-house assessment to ensure that they still have the standards that we’re looking for, so we can drive up the quality of delivery for our clients.’
Trainers are now required to remain active in the field, and so Tom is regularly found on site operating plant at the weekends, something he enjoys. But his passion is teaching.
‘When you train somebody who comes to you with limited skills and goes on to operate specialist machinery in some safety-critical environments, it makes me proud to have been part of that person’s journey.
‘Back when I delivered my first OTP course, we had some novice drivers and now you see them out on the infrastructure as lead operators. There’s a feeling of real accomplishment, and I get great satisfaction from having helped to get them there.’