Formwork specialist RMD Kwikform explains its strategy for training a future generation of engineers.
It’s a growing concern in the industry: an ageing workforce and a shortage of young people coming into the sector to replace the lost skills of those set to retire. RMD Kwikform may have those concerns, but it is also determined to do something about it.
The formwork, falsework and shoring specialist – which has garnered an enviable reputation working on projects like Crossrail, Second Tyne Crossing and 2012 Olympics Aquatic Centre – has put in place a multi-layered programme to attract young people into the £23m turnover business.
It is infusing its 250-strong UK workforce with new young talent by sponsoring engineering students through university, taking on apprentices across both technical and commercial roles, and setting up an innovative work experience scheme.
Managers of tomorrow
“We have a genuine commitment here to develop the next generation of engineers and commercial people to service the industry and be the managers of the future,” says RMD Kwikform operations director for UK & Africa Mike Follett.
The company acknowledges that its role, though vital and technically sophisticated, is not at the glamorous end of an industry and not always an obvious choice for young people. So it has to be proactive and inventive in generating interest to recruit the best people into the firm.
“We’d like all of our graduates to stay with us and become more senior within the company, but even if they leave then it’s still worthwhile”
Mike Follett, RMD Kwikform
Five years ago it began working with Sheffield University to sponsor civil engineering students in their studies and provide them with eight-week summer placements.
There are four people currently on this programme, with more due to be taken on. Once they have graduated they are offered a job and three are now working for the company.
“We’d like all of our graduates to stay with us and become more senior within the company, but even if they leave then it’s still worthwhile,” Mr Follett says.
“It is another qualified person coming into the sector – and hopefully one that will be an advocate for RMD Kwikform and who could return at a senior level in future.”
School pupil engagement
Another plank of Kwikform’s strategy is to engage with school pupils to get interest from an early age. For example, they have struck up a partnership with Walsall Academy in the West Midlands where it provides work placements.
“More and more young people don’t necessarily want to go to university, but they are not sure what they want to do,” says HR manager Debby Wilson.
“So we organised a two-day careers event with heads of departments, including marketing, finance and engineering, presenting to them and from that they chose where they wanted to work for the second day.”
Once the work experience starts they aim to pack as much in as possible; if they choose engineering they get hands-on digital design experience.
“You see their eyes light up – and they are totally fired up by the time they leave,” Ms Wilson says.
The company is also two years into its new apprenticeship scheme and currently has 10 apprentices across three different programmes – covering engineering, maintenance and commercial.
The commercial role focuses on the non-technical side of the business, including HR and finance.
All apprentices get moved around the company to get a broader appreciation of the business and then take on community schemes such as the memorial project at Staffordshire college (see box).
In the future RMD Kwikform intends to increase its recruitment of graduates and school-leavers. “We are known for our engineering solutions and it’s essential we keep that level of skills and expertise in the company as people retire,” Mr Follett says.
Helping the community
RMD Kwikform enhances the experience of its apprentices with community projects, giving them wider responsibility of a scheme from concept to delivery, all while doing their normal day jobs.
One recent scheme, involving six apprentices, involved designing and building a gazebo at the local Chase Terrace Technology College in Staffordshire in honour of the late Stephen Sutton, a young man who lost his battle with cancer in 2014.
Apprentice engineer Ryan Edwards says: “I have been with RMD Kwikform for over 12 months now, and it was great to be involved. We chose what we wanted to build and where, and started the process just like any other large project.
“By uniting our skills and being accountable for specific phases, including design, risk assessment and evaluating buildability – and I can speak on behalf of all involved in the project – we have a greater appreciation of all those involved in the construction process, from inception through to delivery,” he says.
“This is a rewarding and challenging industry, and I know I will become a better engineer after this process. It’s been invaluable; we encountered problems, mainly due to erection, and worked together to resolve them.”
This article has been produced in collaboration with RMD Kwikform as partnership publishing