We have managed to recruit our largest cohort to date for our Graduate Training Programme, despite the restrictions and lockdowns. While we usually recruit in spring for a September start, we put that on hold during the first lockdown in March 2020 to assess the impact of Covid. Watching other companies shelve or cancel their graduate intake for the year only increased our determination to proceed with our fourth consecutive year of the programme. Pushing the start date back to January 2021 gave us time to work out how we could recruit and, if necessary, begin the programme online.
Plans in place, we advertised – and attracted over 800 applicants for, initially, 16 placements.
In 2019 we held a series of assessment centres in Birmingham. They were such a success that we wanted, as far as possible, to emulate them online. Thanks to the support and input from the relevant hiring managers and the excellent organisation and planning skills of our L&D Coordinator for Programmes, Agata Pytlak, we pulled it off. We maintained the technical exercise, interview and group sections online, leading to some great feedback on our four virtual assessment centres. Holding the assessments online gave us the additional advantage of a broader choice of excellent applicants from both inside and outside the UK. One of our successful candidates attending the virtual assessment centre from his home in Bahrain! We hope to return to face-to-face for the next intake but given the circumstances, our virtual assessments were a huge success.
The third lockdown came into force just before the graduates were due to start in their respective offices. Many of our graduate recruits were relocating across the UK (and three were moving from overseas), so we had to work fast to devise a more flexible induction programme. Once again, Agata was in her element, working with department managers to produce an online induction plan. Much of the initial training plan has also been re-worked to enable the graduates, once they had each collected a ‘work from home’ kit in a COVID-secure way, to start work remotely.
The flexibility, patience and commitment of our new graduates have been very encouraging. They have understood and accepted the need for flexible plans. Those relocating have overcome the additional challenges of moving during a pandemic with ever-changing restrictions.
We have been delighted to welcome 18 very talented graduates and one internal candidate (an Assistant Project Manager who transferred to the graduate scheme) to the UKPS Graduate Scheme, making the 2021 cohort the largest to date. We are excited to watch them grow and develop over the next two years. Agata has designed a new, tailored programme to ensure the design trainees gain real in-depth knowledge of their chosen disciplines (water, gas or electricity). For the trainee estimators, the course will cover all three areas.