Co-operative Energy has renewed its focus on education and training by launching new apprenticeship and graduate trainee schemes.
It has also established two dedicated training academies, exclusively for the use of Co-operative Energy colleagues, which is staffed by four full-time trainers under the management of Jo Bevington, head of people development.
Apprentices will work in different areas of the business as they are assessed towards a NVQ level 2 in customer services. The graduate trainee will spend time in specialist areas such as renewable energy and will be given high-level projects to work on.
“All new colleagues at Co-operative Energy do a three-week induction programme followed by a period of ‘on the job’ training with progress review meetings and mentoring,” said Ms Bevington, who launched the programme this summer.
“We are constantly training people – not just new people, but existing colleagues as well, showing them how their roles make a difference.”
Related: Read more from Community Energy Fortnight 2016
Co-operative Energy was set up by Midcounties Co-operative in 2010, and now has over 250,000 customers across England, Scotland and Wales, with more than 400 colleagues across three sites.
“Co-operative Energy grew so quickly,” added Ms Bevington. “At first training was reactive – if staff needed training in a specific area, the training would be arranged.
“Now we are being proactive, and we have in place a calendar of different courses that people can go on that address the training needs of our colleagues.”
Courses include core and specialist training modules to ensure appropriate colleague development and increased customer satisfaction. These cover areas such as customer service, software systems and the handling of complaints and objections.
During Community Energy Fortnight 2016, the organisation launched a new Co-operative Difference model, which covers the organisation’s purpose as a co-op, and the wider Midcounties Blueprint and steering wheel (which measures performance in areas such as co-operation, people, customers and delivery).
Ms Bevington believes the renewed focus on training has played an important part in increased staff satisfaction and retention.
Since May 2015, sick days have reduced by a third and the organisation has halved the number of people leaving.
The industry average for call centre turnover is 30% – but at Co-operative Energy the rate has dropped to 26% from 40% in May last year.
“If people are happy, they do tend to stay,” said Ms Bevington. “If you give them the tools to help people, they can really do their job and make a difference.”
The first two apprenticeships started last month at the co-op’s Walsall offices. And the first Co-op Energy graduate training programme began on 5 September with Arun Toora starting a two-year programme.
Midcounties runs its own graduate training programmes covering different divisions, but this is the first Energy-specific scheme.
“I’m immensely proud of the work Sue Reid (head of operations) and Jo have done in terms of colleague engagement and developing colleagues to be the best that they can be,’ said Pete Westall, general manager at Co-operative Energy.
“They are both long-term Midcounties co-operators, and have been in Energy for less than a year, but have brought a passion, enthusiasm and an ability to make a difference around colleagues, whether recruitment, induction, training and development.”