Mark Lindahl, SIGI Director, Bridgeway Consulting Ltd, explains how the company trains and retains its workforce…

Over the past twelve months I’ve written several pieces for both internal and external sources on how we build on our success and not only sustain our workforce but grow it in a sustainable manner. As a business I believe we are unique in that we develop 70 per cent of staff from base grades that go on to work their way through the business up to senior leader level and in more than one case the board of directors. Bridgeway have been trading as a specialist rail company since 1995, challenges in all departments are what the business thrive on. We love the challenge of gaining access to the most difficult of locations and delivering a first-class product. This may be an initiative to use UAV for a survey which has historically always been done via conventional methods i.e. the examination of Bennerly Viaduct or lifting a drilling rig into position over a river and drilling a caisson as part of a bridge investigation.

Our Structural and Geotechnical Investigations Department take on any challenge large or small. In order that we are enabled to complete these challenges the staff must be well trained, motivated and hungry for a challenge. The department offers one of the widest inhouse set of services in the country and certainly when paired with our sister departments of Geomatics and Infrastructure Services probably the widest rail specific specialist front end information gathering service in the country. We have a reputation for delivering the goods in tight locations both in terms of access and time constraints. Bridgeway recognise as a business that we can only deliver with the correct nurturing and developing of staff throughout their careers and people would be hard pushed to find another company who dedicates as much time and funding to training as Bridgeway.

At present we are in the middle of a recruiting period for the department as our workload grows. We have a tried and tested plan to bring people in with either limited experience or no prior experience and turn them into useful, deployable employees as quickly as possible. One pool we have recently been dipping into with great success is service leavers. BCL as a business are signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant and are actively involved in both regular and reserve service life. We actively encourage our employees to serve as reservists as we believe this develops them into more robust individuals capable of delivering in the most pressurised of environments to the tightest timescales.

Our new members, be they Graduate or Trainee Technicians, all undertake the initial syllabus to make them deployable comprising of:

• Personal Track Safety (PTS)

• Manual Handling

• CAT & Signal Generator (Genny)

• Track Trolley

• Emergency First Aid

• Devegetation

• Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ & Manufacturers’ Association (PASMA)

• B+E Driving or C1E depending on age and experience

• Site Investigation Training including window sampling, logging, coring, and cable percussive drilling techniques.

All training is carried out in house. BCL are a Gold Standard NSAR Training Provider who led the way in converting both our business and the wider industry to Safe Work Leader competence and have been instrumental in some of the biggest changes within the safety critical world in recent years.

Trade training to fulfil the challenge of imparting the specialist skills we have in providing our services to newly qualified rail staff falls to members of the department itself. As most who are familiar with our company and specifically our team know that at the core of our team are a number of ex Royal Engineers. Several of the members of the team who fall into this category have completed tours of duty as an instructor teaching everything from field fortifications and demolitions, through to Site Investigation, to UKAS accredited laboratory testing, and interpretive report writing before finally the quality control of earthworks and building materials on site. With this inhouse skill set we set about building a programme where we could take an average employee off the street without prior experience and give them underpinning technical and safety knowledge in an acceptable timescale enabling them to deploy on live tasks and be a very safe, useful member of the team delivering the highest quality works when and where it matters most, on site.

Training progresses through the more basic techniques to start with and on our smaller pieces of equipment until the trainees are operating to a high standard. Once a standard is achieved and we are happy with the trainee, they are assessed and signed as competent to assist lead operatives. Our trainees then depart and begin their site careers. As our staff develop then we develop them at the speed they are comfortable with and start developing both their rail skills and technical skills. Staff can progress onto cable drilling, rotary drilling or slope climbing drilling or indeed all three if they have the aptitude. At the same time they can be trained as a COSS/SWL1, Engineering Supervisor/SWL2, rail planning, assessing, Safe System of Work Planner, the diversity and opportunity really is second to none.

Bridgeway have also been given direct claims status for the NVQ Level 2 in Land Drilling Operations by NOCN allowing us to formally issue the recognised industry standard award for drillers.

So, what does the above give to the end user the client? It provides them with a service and level of staffing that is hard to match. It gives them peace of mind that when a Bridgeway member of staff mobilises they have the knowledge and competence level to deliver to the highest standards. Clients know their work will be delivered in line with the highest level of both safety and technical standards. This is turn has helped us build a sustainable business recognised with the Queens Award for Sustainable Development.

To date we have trained 27 people utilising the above regime of which we have successfully retained 23 for over three years. We have a new tranche of six beginning their training right now. Once that aspect of the individual’s training is complete their development does not stop. As Bridgeway is a very diverse business there is the opportunity to work with our geomatics department utilising laser scanners, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV – Bridgeway are one of the few companies licensed to fly over the rail network), traditional total stations, or gauging trolleys to name but a few.

Working with our Infrastructure Services department allows the individual to potentially complete an STE04 Structural Examiners course in house, IRATA Roped Access Course, Confined Spaces, CCTV, and Permanent Way duties to name but a few. For those that show the aptitude Bridgeway sponsor them through Bachelor’s degrees in Civil and Infrastructure Engineering in conjunction with the University of Derby, to date we have had five graduate with another three still attending.

Our staff are our main asset which is evident by the investment we put into them. This has seen the department and the wider business grow year on year. For all your problem sites Bridgeway Consulting Ltd really should be your first point of call.

Should you require any further information on the department then please contact Mark Lindahl – SIGI Director, Bridgeway Consulting Ltd [email protected]