As a premium UK homebuilder, CALA Group have construction teams active year-round on sites all across Scotland, the Midlands and the South of England. Little surprise, then, that the company invests heavily in employee training and development to attract, support and retain a highly-skilled construction workforce.
CALA’s Construction Academy of Excellence was launched in 2019, and is led by manager Linzi Shearer with support from project co-ordinator Leah Scott. Both are passionate advocates for insightful, career-focussed professional training, and are committed to providing a supportive resource, and established pathway, for site management employees to pursue a diverse range of industry credentials.
The UK national shutdown, enforced in late March 2020, resulted in the closure of most UK construction sites, simultaneously creating a range of business challenges including the wholesale furloughing of site-based staff. With safeguarding employee development considered a key element in retaining CALA’s industry-leading market position, Linzi Shearer consulted with CALA’s training partners, including Esteem Training Limited, to free up channels through which the Academy team could guarantee that core training sessions would continue to support furloughed staff and maximise on the ‘downtime’.
Esteem Training’s founder Trudy MacKenzie, working closely with the CALA team, was able to demonstrate how Esteem Training’s decade-long investment in online learning, including its helpful e-portfolio of study resources, had allowed the team to seamlessly migrate to deliver best in class virtual training.
Esteem’s candidate-centred approach – featuring supportive coaching from facilitators and assessors, coupled with modular videos, online toolkits, study resources and issues-focused peer group discussions – has proven key in maintaining a 94% candidate success rate and high levels of repeat business. Esteem Training placed highly in the Scottish Qualification Authority’s 2019 Star Awards category of ‘UK and Ireland Training Centre of the Year’.
In April, the first ‘virtual cohort’ of 20 CALA candidates enrolled with Esteem Training, with the majority undertaking the SVQ (Scottish Vocational Qualification) in Construction Site Management while a smaller group pursued the SVQ in Construction Site Supervision. Both awards fall under Skills Development Scotland’s Modern Apprenticeship (MA) programme for the construction sector and students have between six and 12 months in which to secure their award. With the support of the Esteem Training and CALA Academy teams, the majority of the CALA group candidates successfully completed the SVQ element of their three-part virtual programme in approximately 12 weeks – more than 25% faster than the industry benchmark.
Linzi Shearer, manager of CALA’s Construction Academy of Excellence commented: “Since April, we have been focussed on providing immediate support to furloughed employees and are convinced that this type of programme is needed now more than ever. Esteem Training’s promise of 94% successful candidate completion holds true for our teams who, during a recent survey, scored their courses as close-to-perfect and have even recommended them to colleagues.
“Motivated teams who feel valued and supported deliver important business benefits for CALA. Reduced time away from site, lessened environmental impact and the elimination of accommodation costs and geographical restrictions combine to deliver significant savings for our business.
“That said, the bottom line must always be how well the arrangement secures meaningful learning experiences for our staff and this partnership has exceeded expectations. As a result, we’re looking to explore ways to expand this mutually-beneficial alliance which reflects our shared values.”
Martina Höfner, operations director for Esteem Training Limited commented: “The national shutdown, though challenging and distressing for the industry, didn’t ultimately cause us too many operational headaches since many of our facilitators and assessors had already been working remotely, supporting candidates across multiple SVQ levels, before the Spring shutdown.
“In addition, our online e-portfolio, Learning Assistant, has been in place for over a decade. We were therefore well placed to swiftly develop additional online tools and resources, including for these construction management candidates studying with us under Skills Development Scotland’s funded Modern Apprenticeship programme.
“We’re delighted to have passed the one-year anniversary of our partnership with CALA’s Academy team and to have secured universally ‘excellent’ scores from this latest crop of SVQ Site Supervisor and Site Management graduates. Both companies share a focus on delivering flexible, candidate-centred and professionally-relevant training designed to help candidates achieve excellence in their day-to-day work lives. We’ll therefore continue to develop tailored programmes that help switch construction professionals onto lifelong learning.”