Euro Car Parts (ECP) and PDM launch warehousing academy
Based close to major motorways in the West Midlands, Euro Car Parts’ National Distribution Centre distributes vehicle parts throughout the UK via its branch network.
Growing its existing site in Tamworth and adding a satellite nearby provides over 1 million sq ft of central warehousing space requiring a workforce that is committed, productive and available for the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week operation.
However, with recruitment competition from neighbouring businesses ECP soon found there just weren’t enough skilled people available locally to fill all its vacancies. PDM’s solution – if you can’t find them, you need to create them!
Based on its experience of working with other employers that have struggled to find the best new employees, PDM worked with ECP to design and deliver an onsite warehousing academy. The purpose of the academy is to attract interest in the business and inform and prepare potential employees to work in a busy warehouse environment it works, since every person successfully graduating from the first intake has been offered employment by ECP and new intakes are underway to meet the company’s demanding recruitment plan.
PDM works with a number of local stakeholders, including Jobcentre Plus and Serco, to reach into communities of unemployed people and advise them on jobs and careers open to them with ECP. Many of these individuals have tried to enter the logistics sector before but haven’t been successful due to a lack of knowledge and experience of warehousing. The academy takes participants through a phased approach from classroom learning through activity simulation and into a Work Trial before interview. For some it’s the first time in a classroom since leaving school, and a valuable chance to secure a recognised qualification to validate their new skills.
Anthony Lengden, PDM’s business development manager, commented, “We start slowly, working with ECP to deliver a proper induction to the company and the environment paying particular attention to Health & Safety and the critical part played by the Distribution Centre in the company’s success. But soon the learners are practicing new skills carrying out ECP activities with real stock items in a safe, supervised environment. Once they reach the Work Trial they’ve a good knowledge of what to do and what is required of them and so the transition to paid work is a then just a small step away.” At each point potential employees get to weigh up their prospective employer and vice versa.
The academy allows individuals to learn and then demonstrate their new skills and attitude to work, overcoming any apprehensions they may have about the job, and the company offers permanent employment to successful job applicants. Martin Gray, ECP’s CEO, adds “We have found this an invaluable way of identifying the people who best fit our business as no other recruitment method allows us to “try before we buy. They must understand the consequences if parts are not received by our customers for essential car repairs. The programme has proven a financially attractive and low risk method to get the right people into our business. The assurance that learners have the required attitudes and basic skills to succeed prior to joining the company is hugely beneficial to us.”
Finding good staff and keeping them As well as exploring how the academy model could benefit recruitment in other parts of the business PDM is working with ECP to help the integration and development of new recruits too. ECP knows only too well that if staff are not looked after they could lose them to a competitor, leaving both a gap to fill and perhaps missing out on the opportunity for internal promotion. So the academy is evolving to also provide opportunities for employees to learn new skills and plan their futures with the company, perhaps by completing short courses or signing up for Apprenticeships fitted around their needs and those of the business.
Skills for Logistics is the Sector Skills Council for the UK's freight logistics industries. Ann Lord, programme manager, commented, “The UK logistics sector is worth over £93bn to the economy. One in twelve working people in the UK work in logistics - 2.3 million people spanning some 196,000 companies. And yet the sector has traditionally suffered from a misguided perception that it is a poor industry in which to develop a successful career path. The Euro Car Parts Academy gives the company a competitive advantage in keeping and developing their staff instead of expensively losing and replacing them. I’m sure their experience and the concept will prove invaluable to others facing similar challenges in the sector.”
One of the academy graduates now working at Euro Car Parts is Craig Wood, “I thoroughly enjoyed the course. The tutors from PDM and the managers at ECP were excellent. I had been unemployed for 6 months and had no experience in the warehouse Industry, this programme has given me the knowledge and confidence to work in and understand the busy and demanding world of warehousing. Thank you so much for this opportunity.”
PDM’s Anthony Lengden summarised, “The most rewarding product of the academy is not improving a business and its workforce or providing qualifications to people that may not have them, as valuable as both of these things are, but in giving unemployed people the chance of finding a new job and a career and changing their lives for the better.