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2020 / 2021 Edition

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Extracting Potential: Developing quarrying’s next generation of talent

First published in the August 2019 issue of Quarry Management 

Developing bespoke training programmes for new recruits in the mineral extraction industry is crucial for the sector’s future success. Tarmac’s national skills and safety park trainer, Katie Barrett, outlines the ways that the company is supporting its next generation of talent.

People often ask me why I chose to work in quarrying. My honest answer is that, as a young woman setting out in the industry, I had no appreciation that this was in any way unusual. When I started my career at Tarmac, working at their Bestwood Quarry, in Nottinghamshire, my manager was female, while my mentor – Karen Draper – was and remains among the most senior women working in the business. In that sense, I was completely used to seeing and being around strong female role models.

While I was lucky to benefit from this mentorship, showing me what my future career could look like, our industry still has some way to go to attract talent in all its guises. Key to this is ensuring that individuals have inspirational leaders to look up to and follow. By recognizing professional goals and establishing clear and aspirational career pathways, we can nurture a diverse and skilled workforce.

My advice to any young person considering a career in minerals extraction, regardless of their gender, is to have confidence in your own ability and embrace the opportunity to make a material difference to the infrastructure of the future.

Millennial appeal

In recent years we have collectively been taking major steps towards recruiting new and younger talent. We have achieved this in part by beginning to shake off misconceptions about the industry being dirty and physically demanding, and better promoting so many of its roles that are cutting-edge, technical and highly skilled. The increasing adoption of digital innovation is also helping to draw in more tech-savvy individuals.

Tarmac are at the forefront of those companies focused on striking a balance between attracting new employees to the sector and, at the same time, developing a wide-ranging skills programme that is empowering its workforce to benefit and grow professionally.

I have experienced this journey first-hand myself when I started out with the company only a few years ago as a multi-skilled operative at Bestwood.

With a previous background in stonemasonry, I was completely fresh into the industry – intrigued about my prospects while eager to learn new skills and immerse myself in a wholly new experience. It became immediately apparent from day one how both welcoming and enthusiastic all members of the team were about their profession – and I have since witnessed the same passion and dedication mirrored at other sites I have visited, both within and outside the business.

Supported by the quarry manager and experienced colleagues, I embraced all aspects of the on-the-job training – working on everything across the site from loading shovels to excavators and dumpers.

Alongside this practical on-site training, however, I was also given the opportunity to sign up to Tarmac’s company-wide employee development programme (EDP), focused on individual personal development, as well as the formal mentoring scheme.

My experiences from participating in the EDP programme and the additional support I received gave me the confidence to progress and improve in my role, but also provided me with the motivation and drive to help and support others taking their first steps in the business. Inspired by my mentor, I embarked on a new position focused on developing and supporting the next generation of talent

Pathways to success

Chief among my new responsibilities is overseeing Tarmac’s new industry-leading Professional Operator Development Programme (PODP), which new starters working in our operational areas and operating mobile and static plant can undertake.

It is one of the initiatives that have been put in place across our business aimed at helping people add to their existing skill sets, boost their expertise and, ultimately, fulfil their potential. Equally, on the other hand, the course is essentially helping us to get the most out of our employees by building a high-performance workplace, retaining and motivating talented individuals and encouraging learning within the organization.

The 12-month programme has been designed to blend formal training sessions and online courses with practical ‘on-the-job’ learning. Developed through the apprenticeship levy, the structured format covers everything from learning about the company’s core values through to behavioural safety and first aid training. It also provides interpersonal skills coaching, an introduction to some of Tarmac’s management systems, as well as the business’ approach to sustainability.

Each individual commits two days per month to the workshop sessions and is responsible for keeping up with coursework and communicating progress to their line manager. Upon completion, the participant receives a fully accredited vocational qualification.

It is crucial we continue to provide bespoke programmes such as this, which have been tailored for the construction materials and quarrying sector and reflect the skills needed for some of the more specialist roles. In this way it is possible to deliver technical training and offer high-quality career pathways into our essential and vibrant industry.

On a personal level, it has been extremely rewarding to see those involved on the PODP scheme flourish and to track their progress in the early stages of their careers – especially young women, who unfortunately remain in the minority across the sector.

It is exciting being involved in a scheme that is helping to bring positive change and increased inclusivity to the industry, which is allowing us to continue changing perceptions and help new recruits see the potential it holds for long-term, fulfilling and successful careers.

As with all businesses, we must continue to work hard to become more attractive employers so that people of all genders and backgrounds want to work for us, and so that we can attract high-quality prospective employees.

Our industry is critical to society and, directly and indirectly, has a touchpoint with the lives of every person in the country. All infrastructure projects ultimately start with our products and materials, so we should be continuing to encourage and support anybody that wants to play a part.

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