Wales & West Utilities - Designing Our Future

GE Aviation Wales Inspiring Young Talent Award, 2017, Shortlisted

Wales & West Utilities (WWU) doesn’t sell gas; it uses its extensive network of pipes to transport gas to homes and businesses throughout Wales and the south west of England.  It responds to gas emergencies, and invests £2m every day across the network, connecting new properties and replacing old metal pipes with new long lasting plastic ones. 

Good for business

  • More diverse workforce – younger people and women applied for roles with Wales & West, whereas previously around 28% would have not been shortlisted due to lack of academic qualifications
  • Improved reputation – both internally and externally, Wales & West’s reputation as a progressive employer has seen improvements
  • Improved demographics – the average age of the operational workforce has been reduced from 54 to 44, with 426 members of the team under the age of 35

Good for society

  • Opened up opportunities – by removing academic requirements for apprenticeship intakes, barriers have been removed for applications, resulting in a more level playing field
  • Better fit recruitment – building a values-driven recruitment system means that applicants are now a “better fit” to the organisation, with a 99% retention rate amongst apprentices
  • Career development – new training for apprentices has resulted in 85% of applicants for the courses being 35 and under

Designing Our Future

A new approach to recruitment has resulted in Wales & West Utilities (WWU) helping young people reach their potential, removes barriers to employment, maps development pathways through the business whilst securing the essential skills the company needs to be sustainable in the longer term. 

Set against the company’s own workforce demographics (an average age of 54 in 2005) and a commitment to put values at the heart of their business decisions, WWU developed the Designing our Future programme to address the demographic challenges and get more people applying for apprenticeship roles within the company. With a clear business imperative, and support from senior management, the programme restructured the application process for apprenticeship roles and removed the requirement for 5 GCSEs for apprenticeship positions.

WWU recognised that recruitment for operational positions did not require a set level of academic achievement – something which had previously been the first shortlisting criteria. This was replaced by asking applicants to felt they could demonstrate the four values of the business (energy, teamwork, pride and customer). Subsequent stages of the recruitment process have been updated to reflect this approach. Having a better fit at these early stages has resulted in a 99% retention rate amongst apprentices. 

WWU doesn’t just recruit, it also develops colleagues with new management training courses being opened up to internal applicants without the previously asked for experience of being a manager. 85% of applicants for this course are aged under 35 and 100% have gone on to secure line manager positions within the business. By taking a values-led approach to recruitment – alongside an honest examination of internal processes – Wales & West has made a positive difference to the business as well as young people looking to enter the world of work.

What Wales & West Utilities’ Chief Executive said:

“Our development programmes are designed to be accessible to all and to identify great people who live our values and can make a real contribution to our company. I’m proud of our progress and our recruitment of more than 140 apprentices since we started operations in 2005. We’ve also provided development opportunities for our people, 28% of whom are under 35. Young people are out future managers, technicians and customer advocates so it’s vital that all businesses invest in programmes to support future strategies and objectives.”Graham Edwards, Chief Executive, Wales & West Utilities