Portland Nurseries Ltd
A family-owned group of children’s day nurseries in Huddersfield has made employee training a top priority.
Huddersfield-based Portland Nurseries Ltd, which was launched in 1991, operates four day nurseries – Harlequin, Holly Bank, Oakwood House and Portland House – and sees its vision as “to deliver the highest quality of care by providing a warm, friendly and stimulating environment where each child will develop to his or her potential”.
In the past 12 months, the number of children in Portland Nurseries’ care has risen to 538. And As well as supporting these children, their families and the 99 staff, the company is heavily involved in supporting its sector nationally, its local community and its chosen charity, the West Yorkshire Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice.
Managing Director and founder Rosemary Murphy said: “There is always a constant focus on the training and development of employees as they are the key element to good practice. We close the nurseries twice a year for staff training and offer a wealth of opportunities through well-developed accredited training programmes throughout the year.”
“However, this year we have taken our training one step further by working with staff to refocus our appraisal scheme into what we believe is a sophisticated and ground-breaking model, linking the children’s development directly to the training and development of the staff.”
Said Rosemary: “The new appraisal and tracking system played a key role in our recent Ofsted success with Oakwood House and Forest School becoming the third nursery in the group to be judged ‘outstanding’. The nursery, which has been opened for less than three years, is led by manager Samantha Richmond – who has been with the company for over 20 years – along with a hard-working team.”
More than 90% of Portland Nurseries staff are qualified to level 3 and its managers have gained honours degrees with postgraduate qualifications of Early Years Teacher Status. Portland Nurseries was the first nursery in Kirklees to gain Investors in People.
Said Rosemary: “Our robust recruitment and induction programme helps new staff develop key skills to maintain high standards and new recruits are supported by mentors throughout their first six months.”
Portland Nurseries was one of the first nurseries in the country to offer a company-contributed stakeholder pension scheme and has since added health and loyalty schemes as well as rewarding every five years’ of service with a five-day “holiday voucher”.
Said Rosemary: “Portland Nurseries has now held Investors in People accreditation for 13 years and we are looking forward to new challenges. We intend to work with Investors in Diversity to eventually become Leaders in Diversity by ensuring we have an all-encompassing approach to managing equality, diversity and inclusion throughout the company.
“We have always invested heavily in the training of the staff and encouraged them to work closely across the nurseries, together and to the same high standards.
A workers’ co-operative is proving that equality on the shopfloor and the boardroom can deliver results.
Suma Wholefoods, based at Elland, was formed in 1975 by a handful of like-minded people who shared a vision to grow a vegetarian business cooperatively. What they started is now the UK’s leading supplier of natural and organic food and drink.
As a workers’ co-operative, the business is 100% owned by its workforce of members, who all have an equal interest and control regardless of length of service.
The 180 members are jointly responsible for the success of Suma as a business – and as a place where people want to work.
They meet regularly to debate issues and strategies and reach decisions by majority voting.
Member Jeff Walker said: “Suma moves forward to continued and greater success with the commitment of its workforce. We are the decision-makers and we measure success as much in being a quality place to work as in net profit at year-end – a challenging balancing act at times.”
Multi-tasking is part of the job description, with members sharing out jobs and doing their share of the less popular roles – mixing desk-based work with manual work and, in some cases, doing five different jobs in one week.
Suma operates an equal pay structure with all workers earning the same hourly rate regardless of their position.
Said Jeff: “We are all necessary cogs in achieving our objectives and place equal value on our skills and ourselves.
Short-term workers who help in the warehouse at peak periods are paid exactly the same as members who have been here for 30 years.”
Trainee members have monthly appraisals to assess their training needs and progress towards membership.
During the next nine months, Suma invests in their development as multi-skilled members who will also take responsibility for running the business.
True to its principles, Suma champions the Fairtrade movement and works with manufacturers and importers to develop its own Suma range of Fairtrade products to ensure its supply chain is ethically sourced – and that workers and communities benefit from its relationship.
Suma has contributed start-up income and support to co-operative business ventures, including Holmfirth Fairtraders Co-operative and Green Valley Grocers. At Old Earth School, Suma sponsored the building of an eco-classroom and at Brighouse High School, it provided funding for the school’s polytunnel.
Looking ahead, Jeff said: “We’re confident in our growth and the need to continually invest in new people. In spring next year, we will continue our rolling annual recruitment of new members. Annual recruitment provides opportunity for new people to join Suma and provided a pathway for short-term workers to enter membership.”
Crowther & Shaw Ltd
It's the staff who make the business special, according to the managing director of commercial air conditioning and refrigeration business Crowther & Shaw.
Mark Gledhill, who is also sole owner of the Lockwood-based company knows what he’s taking about when he highlights the role employee training and development plays in the company’s success.
For Mark joined the business in 1985 as an apprentice engineer. Since that time, he has gained knowledge of all aspects of the business as he progressed from apprentice to fully qualified engineer before becoming service manager finally managing director just two years ago.
For Crowther & Shaw, this continuity at management level coupled with a similar commitment at staff level is what sets the business apart from the opposition.
The company, which celebrates its 80th anniversary as a limited company this year, has grown from a small electrical and plumbing business in the 1930s into a business with contracts at more than 2,000 sites throughout the UK.
Clients include universities, local authorities, fast-food chains, banks, retailers, manufacturing companies and food suppliers.
The company employs 17 engineers of various ages, abilities and experience – ranging from Robert Turner, who has been with the company for 35 years, to Mr Gledhill’s son Elliott and fellow apprentice Dan who have been with the company for just a few months. Robert’s son Andrew has notched up 18 years with the firm.
Of these 17 engineers, 11 have joined the company from school and have been trained or will receive training to NVQ level 3 in refrigeration and air conditioning. In addition, the company has three father and son combinations – and even one mother and son!
Said Mark: “It’s difficult to identify why our staff are so loyal, but I guess a stable, well-managed business model coupled with relative success in gaining new and interesting business always helps.
“Growing our own staff as we have done reaps its rewards as they naturally feel a greater bond with the business where they started work.
“Over the years, we have won many awards with our apprentices, including the 2012 Yorkshire Apprentice of the Year, which was shared by both our third-year trainees, That followed on from many wins in this competition over the years.
“We also had one apprentice win a national competition in 2006 which resulted in him flying to Japan to represent the UK in the World Skills competition. Matthew, the apprentice in question, is now an engineer and he’s still with us, having just passed his 10-year service mark. We have recently employed two school leavers as apprentice engineers, replacing our current third year apprentices, who will move up the ranks.”