Last year, LondonEnergy had its inaugural intake of graduate trainees and a number of apprentices. The decision to harness the dynamism and fresh perspective offered by young people presents a new pool of talent for the business. It sits alongside our existing recruitment commitments to employ local people wherever possible, as well as ex-offenders and military veterans.
The company was becoming increasingly aware of a need for succession planning and developing leaders for the future. We believe this recruitment challenge is due in part to a prevailing key skills shortage in the UK, particularly on the electrical engineering side, but also due to an ‘image problem’ with the waste and recycling industry.
For many, the industry is so comparatively low-profile, they would not have even considered it as a long-term career choice.
We are looking to change that perception, and one of the key early steps in that process was to rebrand to LondonEnergy. This has repositioned our business to reflect the current and future activities of the company – not only in the sustainable energy we generate from waste but also in the energy and CO2 we save through recycling.
We are looking to become an energy leader of the resource and circular economy within London. The launch of our graduate and apprenticeship schemes forms a vital part of the strategy for the company.
In September, we welcomed six graduates to our site in north London. Five were engineering graduate trainees and one an information technology graduate trainee. Our engineering graduates came armed with BSc degrees in either mechanical or chemical engineering from a range of universities across the UK and had, in some cases, already spent time in industry.
Each found out about the inaugural scheme through a variety of channels, with graduate recruitment websites a common hunting ground. We also exhibited at the Graduate Fair, which took place at the University of London last October, where we stood alongside the more traditional target sectors for engineering graduates such as oil and gas, pharmaceutical and fast-moving consumer goods. This was an experience we particularly enjoyed and gave us, as a business, a chance to really promote ourselves.
We have nine apprentices now, spread over four departments: administration, IT, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. The scheme was launched in September 2015 and we aim to recruit from the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (Conel), which is local to us.
It is still early days, but already we are delighted with the results we are reaping from this talented group of young people. What they may lack in workplace experience, they certainly make up for with their enthusiasm and creativity.
The graduate and apprenticeship schemes will now run annually, and we have been working hard with this year’s crop to understand how we can develop on the 2017 recruitment process.
The strongest message seems to be about social media and to raise awareness with a new and younger pool of talent. Equally, we have been buoyed by the feedback received to date about what they enjoy most about their jobs, namely its ‘hand-on’ nature, progression possibilities and the overall stability and security they feel.
New recruits: Michael and Omar
We first met Michael, our information technology graduate trainee, when he visited our stand at the Graduate Fair, having first heard about us on www.prospects.ac. He has a degree in computer networks from the University of Birmingham City.
Since joining in September, Michael has worked on a diverse set of projects, including the roll-out of the HR Self-Service system, a new room-booking system and the automation of the weighbridges. The automation project is looking to generate savings by increasing the flow of vehicles and more accurately capturing data.
Michael had no idea how much engineering and chemical engineering was involved in the waste and recycling business, and believes the industry will increasingly get “on the radar” for graduates with a scientific background.
Omar, our IT apprentice, is a local boy and can even walk to work. With a good set of GCSE results and ambition to studying animation at college, he embarked on a customer service adviser role, most recently at Greenwich Leisure. But with only a zero-hours contract and an ever-diminishing number of shifts, he sought out the services of the Peabody Trust, which helped to hone his CV and put him in touch with Conel college.
The college has long-established links with LondonEnergy and, after determining that Omar would be suited to a career in IT, it matched the two parties together. He will be supported throughout the year as he studies for his NVQ Level 3 and provides IT support.
Natasha Hudson is the head of talent development at LondonEnergy
Developing leaders of the future