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More companies investing in accreditations and training post-COVID

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The robust growth of parts of the construction industry since COVID restrictions were lifted, has prompted a growing number of firms in this sector to invest to a greater extent in training and accreditations, as they try to stay ahead of the competition. 

That is according to CoreGenic, a specialist health & safety consultancy based in Neath, which serves companies across the UK.

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The business has enjoyed rapid growth in the past 12 months, but its founder has particularly noted a lot more companies specifically investing in upselling their staff and enhancing their processes. 

In recent weeks alone, the company has helped three Wales-based companies linked to the construction sector secure an important ISO accreditation linked to quality (ISO 9001:2015), occupational health and safety (ISO 45001:2015) and environmental (ISO 14001:2015) factors.

Cherie Coughlan, Managing Director at CoreGenic, said that while clients’ exact motivations vary, there is a definite sense in companies that following the COVID outbreak and its subsequent effects within society, such investments are needed to win certain contracts and types of work. 

Undertaking this type of analysis means that the implemented management system helps streamline business processes and identifies opportunities for cost reduction. Companies have also seen improved quality of service and consumer experience following the process being implemented, and for some has resulted in repeat business.  

Coughlan said: “We have seen a lot more demand for a number of types of training but also specific accreditations since COVID restrictions have eased. Clients are telling this that this is a period of opportunity, given the backlog of work and projects created by lockdowns. They want to take advantage of this but also realise that competition to win tenders is intense.

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“We are happy to help companies in Wales gain these important skills and win more business, advancing the local economy in the process. This is not limited to just the construction industry. We can help businesses in any sector through the same process.” 

The three companies she is referring to are: ASW Scaffolding, which invested in CoreGenic to assist with both Stage 1 and Stage 2 audits, ensuring that the criteria of the ISO 9001:2015 standard are met. These audits are required to achieve the certification.

Wales Roofing Solutions, which secured the certification to tender for work for a very specific large client; and Hartson Fire, which also achieved the BAFE SP101 registration, a mark of accreditation relating to the fire safety industry, which cannot be achieved without the ISO9001 accreditation. 

CoreGenic works closely with Managing Directors to develop their quality management system and ensure compliance through regular meetings that allow it to understand the business activities fully as well as targets and objectives, needed to develop specific policies, procedures and operational forms.  

Part of the service involves developing a bespoke training package which is delivered to all staff, to ensure a full understanding of why the implementation of a quality management system is needed, the benefit of ISO certifications and to familiarise the team with the associated documents.  

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ISO accreditations certify that a management system, manufacturing process, service, or documentation procedure has all the requirements for standardisation and quality assurance. CoreGenic can assist with all three previously mentioned accreditations (9001:2015, 45001:2015 and 14001:2015) and even has the capacity to assist with an integrated system that includes amalgamating all three.  

Coughlan, added:  “Our health and safety consultancy service is at the core of what we do, aiming to become a business-first point of call when addressing these issues, taking away the hassle so business owners can concentrate on what’s important – running your business. The process of helping organisations gain essential accreditations and seeing how pleased our clients are with this service makes it that much more worthwhile.  

“If businesses are unfamiliar with management systems, we are happy to educate them to ensure they understand what is involved and the benefits that could be had from these improvements. We will also conduct a full audit on firms’ health, safety and environmental management systems, in which we take into consideration the effectiveness, performance and consistency of a business’s operations.” 

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Technology

£67k contract win with leading power tools specialists for Swansea’s Uplands Communications

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Uplands Communications is celebrating a major contract win to the tune of £67k, having closed a deal with a division of Techtronic Industries EMEA Ltd.

The deal sees the Swansea-headquartered telephony specialists supply connectivity for more than 130 users.

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Techtronic owns brands including Ryobi, Milwaukee and AEG. The company enjoyed record 2021 worldwide sales of US$13.2 billion and has more than 51,000 employees.

Paul Hooper, MD of Uplands Communications, which is based in Swansea, said: “We are pleased to forge a new partnership with Techtronic Industries EMEA Ltd, a leaders in its field which is committed to ensuring its customers receive the best experience whenever they interact with the business.

“The past two years have been challenging for businesses across all industries, including for telephony and communications, and, of course for construction and for their supply chain colleagues.

“However, we are seeing, across the board, companies becoming increasingly aware of the need to make sure their communications are in the best shape possible and are modern and fit for purpose.

“The pandemic has brought about a sea-change in the way consumers and businesses interact with each other. Carefully-tailored telephone and communications solutions are more essential than ever if businesses want to thrive.”

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Natasha Russell, Financial Accountant at Techtronic said: “We operate a multi-million pound operation across a range of products and sites and we deal with a broad customer base – both commercial and domestic.

“The solution we sought from Uplands will give us a more seamless billing functionality and smoother processes, as well as more robust day-to-day support. We are pleased to enter into an agreement with Uplands Communications and we look forward to our ongoing relationship with them.”

Uplands Communications, based at Swansea Enterprise Park, is a leading managed services company delivering flexible voice, data and mobile communications.

The firm, which has its HQ in Swansea and an office in Somerset, specialises in independent network management and providing bespoke, converged solutions that aren’t tied to technology and supplier.

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Money

64% of Wales employees set to leave due to cost of living

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couple talking while moving in new apartment

During the biggest cost-of-living crises most people will have ever experienced, only 6% of employees in Wales believe their employer is doing enough to support them through the crisis.

Even though staggering 72% believe their employer has a responsibility to support them through the current climate.

That’s according to new research from Blackhawk Network, which says that according to employees, employee benefits are no longer just added incentives, they are now a way for employers to support their staff.

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It says it’s now essential employers are informed on what employees want and ultimately need from benefits schemes to help guide them through the cost-of-living crisis.

Other key findings in Wales show 94% of employers agree that they have a duty to support their employees as the cost-of-living rises, with 79% of employees saying employee benefits play, or could play, an important role in improving the cost-of-living 

Almost two thirds (64%) would leave their current job in order to find an opportunity that provides better financial support during the current cost-of-living crisis. 

The findings come from research conducted by Blackhawk Network in conjunction with Sapio, to support the launch of its new Blackhawk Network Extras Benefits Platform.

Workplace benefits are hot property at a time of crisis  

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According to the UK-wide data, 85% of employers agree that they have a duty to support their employees as the cost-of-living rises. While raising wages might seem a simple fix, businesses are also impacted by rising costs and inflation making pay increases unviable. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing they can do to help. 83% of employees agree that workplace benefits play an important role in helping to balance finances as the cost-of-living continues to rise; and 95% of employers agree.

It is telling that almost a quarter (24%) of employees admit they’ve already used their benefits package more during the cost-of-living. In addition, almost three quarters (73%) of employer’s state that prospective employees are looking for employee benefits as part of the solution to the crisis.  

Employers must dial-up on support to have real impact  

The report says that dialling-up cost-of-living support through employee benefits is a must when talent is at risk. For example, salary sacrifice, where employees are offered the option to pay for services or products from their salary before they receive it to reduce tax, can be found with offers such as Cyclescheme, on technology or gym memberships, to save money that would otherwise eat into pay. However, there are still barriers to overcome.

When employees were asked what the term ‘salary sacrifice’ meant, almost three quarters (73%) admitted they did not fully understand it, including 18% who had not idea at all. In contrast, to almost all employers (98%) believing employees understand it to some degree. There is a clear disconnect between the employer and the employee, yet salary sacrifice can save employees money and help in mitigating the effects of the cost-of-living crisis. 

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If employers want to support employees, they need to make information about benefits, like salary sacrifice, more accessible and digestible to prove that it can have a real-life impact on their current financial situation by making their pay go further.

Over half (53%) of employees say they would be more likely to use salary sacrifice schemes if they had a better understanding of how they work. But this is an issue that only employers can fix. Better communication is essential to close the perception gap on employee benefits to be the support employees want and need during the cost-of-living crisis. 

Chris Ronald, VP EMEA Incentives & Operations at Blackhawk Network said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that employers have a vital role to play supporting their employees during the cost-of-living crisis. But the rising costs also mean that businesses are unable to offer blanket wage increases.

“Our research takes an in-depth look into the current state of employee benefits and the perceptions of the employees who are in a position to use them. With the release of this research, we hope to give businesses the tools they need to improve their benefit packages so they continue to support staff throughout the crisis.” 

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Science

Welsh insulation company partners with Swansea University to explore capturing carbon emissions

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Brigend-based insulation company ROCKWOOL Ltd. has announced it is partnering with the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at Swansea University to research the capture of carbon dioxide.

Researchers are aiming to develop new carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technologies that can assist Wales and the UK achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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Researchers at ESRI have been working on a process called Pressure Swing Adsorption to separate carbon dioxide from a mixture of gases. To date, this has been shown to work under laboratory conditions and so the next step is to investigate how it works in a real life industrial process.

Over the next 12 months, researchers will be experimenting with different adsorbent materials and operating conditions to determine the most effective method for removing carbon dioxide. Isolating carbon dioxide from a mixed gas stream is an important step in developing opportunities for use or long term storage.

Darryl Matthews, Managing Director of ROCKWOOL Ltd, said: “Alongside ROCKWOOL Ltd.’s membership of the South Wales Industrial Cluster, I am delighted we’re partnering with Swansea University to pilot new technology designed to capture CO2 emissions and are excited about its potential in supporting the drive to Net Zero.”

The demonstration unit is being developed as part of the £11.5m Reducing Industrial Carbon Emissions (RICE) project which has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and is aimed at the deployment of industrial scale demonstrations of new technology.

The carbon capture demonstration unit at Swansea University (Image: Swansea University)

Darryl continued: “Taking these important steps to understand how we can develop CCUS technology further is another important piece of the decarbonisation puzzle for us as a business. The ROCKWOOL Group has long been committed to operating sustainably and in December 2020, ROCKWOOL announced commitments to accelerate the decarbonisation of our business, with specific long-term targets verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.”

Professor Andrew Barron the Principal Investigator of the RICE project summarized the achievement, “with 2050 arriving fast, the time for research is over, it is imperative to get new technology onto industrial sites in order to demonstrate viability. Partners such as ROCKWOOL are vital in achieving this goal.”

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In 2020 the ROCKWOOL Group announced ambitious, science based global decarbonisation targets that have been verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The targets, which supplement existing sustainability goals, amount to an ambitious one third reduction of ROCKWOOL’s lifecycle (Scope 1, 2 and 3) greenhouse gas emissions by 2034 while at the same time continuing the reduce the carbon intensity of production.

These commitments build on ROCKWOOL’s existing status as a net carbon negative company, in that over the lifetime of its use, the building insulation ROCKWOOL sold in 2021 will save 100 times the carbon emitted in its production.

Welsh Government Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “These are the partnerships that will drive a stronger, greener Welsh economy. Putting world class expertise into practice is critical to our journey to net zero and this work means Bridgend will play a leading role in these exciting developments. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support the project through the European Regional Development Fund.”

(Lead image: ROCKWOOL)

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