Special Report on National Training Awards: Tailor-made to reap the fruits of hard labour: Martin Whitfield finds training is vital to stay ahead in a competitive market

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The Independent Online
WHEN a company like British Steel talks about a 1 per cent improvement in operational delays as a result of its latest training programme, it means big numbers.

A winning entry from the Port Talbot strip mill in South Wales resulted in pounds 4.6m additional turnover, from cutting back unscheduled delays caused by an inability to solve malfunctions quickly. It enabled the company to reap further benefit of a pounds 350m capital investment at the plant.

The training of 60 operators, since increased to 120, followed tests by occupational psychologists to help design a programme which would increase their problem solving skills.

David Horn, training manager, says shift managers, engineers and supervisors were also introduced to the programme so that the complete team knew what was going on.

'It is a very competitive market place and if we don't keep abreast with technology and have people to take advantage of that technology, we won't stay long at the front,' he adds.

Another company expecting large financial gains from its investment is Rover, Britain's largest car maker. Workers making engines and gearboxes at the company's Longbridge plant, home of the Mini, Metro and Rover 200 and 400 series, were trained in new maintenance techniques.

In some areas maintenance cost were cut by more than two- thirds, while Rover expects overall savings to be pounds 30m as a result of a 10 per cent increase in the life expectancy of capital equipment.

Tailored training has led to a number of companies fighting back against the effects of the recession. The construction and home improvement industry has had a very tough time in the wake of the property market collapse. But Bovis Homes used training of site supervisors and managers to cut building cost wastage by pounds 300 per house.

The scheme also helped the company to achieve a 15 per cent reduction in average build times and better quality control.

'Few of our site managers had received formal management training in the past and we had relied too much on practical experience for their development,' says Patricia Mealing, personnel and training director.

The Kaylon Group, the West Yorkshire-based manufacturer of the Leyland range of paints and materials and of a number of DIY brand-named paints, believes that training of its sales teams helped it increase turnover by 13 per cent, at a time when the market fell by 9 per cent.

'Lessons were delivered by their line managers. When the sales force went back into the field, their managers went with them. It has helped us to identify those people with the potential for development,' says Charles Enevoldson, training manager.

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