THOUSANDS of JCB employees have embarked on the biggest training initiative in the company's history as it faces the global economic challenge head on.
It is part of a huge programme involving more than 2,000 employees from JCB's Midlands' and Wales factories aimed at equipping the workforce with the skills needed to weather the economic downturn – and take advantage of the opportunities a recovery will bring. Plants in Rocester, Cheadle, Uttoxeter, Wrexham, Rugeley and Derbyshire are all taking part.
Among those participating are 750 employees from the Backhoe Loader, Loadall and Hydraulic Business Units – all based at the World HQ. They are involved in a four-day programme being held at Uttoxeter Racecourse which includes sessions on performance manufacturing operations, problem solving and health and safety,
Corporate College, the business arm of Derby College, is delivering the programmes for staff attending the sessions at the Racecourse, with colleges in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Burton, Walsall, Lichfield and Tamworth delivering similar training to staff from other factories.
The scheme has already won praise from Skills Secretary John Denham, who held up the company as an example of good practice during a debate in the House of Commons. And employees taking part in the training programme have also heralded it as a big step in the right direction as JCB looks to combat the effects of the global economic challenge.
HBU Machinist Peter Wilkes, 41, of Penkridge, near Stafford, said: “This is a very good idea. Some of the training has been great for team building and working outside the box. I think it will stand me in good stead for my time at JCB and the qualifications I will gain will also definitely help.”
Tim Jones, 43, a Backhoe Loader assembly line operator, from Barlaston, said: “I have done something similar to this in the past in a previous job and definitely benefited from it. We get to use our brains in different ways and it helps you approach tasks in the workplace in a totally different way which is refreshing and can lead to innovation.”
Paul Findlow, 50, of Congleton, who is a welder in the Loadall Business Unit said: “I am really enjoying the experience and interacting with people I work alongside every day in a totally different way. I have found the health and safety sessions particularly useful. They enhance everything we are taught at JCB and it makes me feel more confident to deal with situations like this when they arise.”
Andrew Godsafe, 36, of Uttoxeter, who works as a welder in the Loadall Business Unit, said: “Under the current climate any extra training we receive is a good thing. It is also nice to interact with people I see day in, day out but work with them on something totally new which challenges us in different ways. I think I have also got a lot in terms of team building out of the sessions so far – it has been a worthwhile experience.”
Lee Finney, 39, of Rocester, a cylinder machinist with HBU, said: “I was really pleased to be involved in something that helped me with self improvement. The qualifications will certainly help and help give the JCB workforce the edge. The training has gone well and I think working in a team environment will really help me learn from others and improve in my job.”
Ken Stepney, JCB's Head of Learning and Development said: “We have been very encouraged by the response to the training programme. In partnership with the colleges we are equipping the workforce with the skills they need for the future. We are working to combat the problems caused by the economic downturn and readying ourselves for the opportunities a recovery will bring.”
April Hayhurst, Commercial Director at Corporate College, Derby, is impressed by JCB's determination to weather the storm and its commitment to the workforce. “It demonstrates a real sense of corporate responsibility”, she said. “In difficult times many companies can have a 'head in the sand' mentality but not at JCB, they are really doing something that will benefit the company as a whole as well as all the individual employees who take part.”
David Croll, Principal and Chief Executive of Derby College, added: “It is a pleasure to be working in partnership with JCB on such a worthwhile training programme. The current economic climate is encouraging us to work with companies like JCB in new and more flexible ways and provide tailored courses that will up skill their workforces for the future.”
The training laid on combined team building sessions with classroom learning to help employees work towards valuable qualifications. They include a NVQ Level 2 Certificate in Performing Manufacturing Operations, City and Guilds Level 1 Certificate in Problem Solving and a Level 2 Health and Safety Award. Other training being undertaken includes a BTEC qualification in Lean Manufacturing, while JCB supervisory staff will also have five days of training in management skills and techniques.
JCB is also delivering a wide range of internally-organised training courses covering team leading, fabrication and welding, lean manufacturing and operating efficiently in the workplace. At JCB Transmissions in Wrexham, more than 300 shopfloor employees are undergoing training on business improvement skills, reducing inventory and specific tuition on assembly line and machinery use techniques.