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Addressing the diversity shortage in the power sector

Diversity in the workplace is an ever-growing topic of debate and where the FM sector is concerned, it is one that is becoming increasingly important to the fundamentals of day-to-day business.

A shortage of skilled workers in STEM sectors has led to growing pressures on UK workforces, while a report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has suggested the costs to the UK economy estimate £1.5 billion per year. While STEM subject take-up is seeing a gradual increase in the UK, there remains a major lack of diversity in the engineering sector’s workforce- just 10% of which is female and less than 6% from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Steps are undoubtedly being taken to address the diversity issue in UK businesses; in 2017 BSI launched BS 76005, a new standard for employers to provide guidance for good practice on valuing their employees through diversity and inclusion. The standard provides recommendations covering people management and development, and the evolution of more inclusive policies, procedures, practices and behaviours within organisations supporting diversity.

While the complexities of incorporating and recruiting diverse talent into a historically white, male-dominated industry are clear, it is also apparent that an inclusive workforce can provide many benefits for organisations in the engineering and FM sectors.

Turnkey stand-by power services

A current example of this is PPSPower a company that prides itself on its diverse approach to recruitment. Based at a headquarters in Sherburn-in-Elmet, PPSPower provides a full ‘turnkey’ service for stand-by power systems including decommissioning and removal of existing equipment, any associated mechanical and electrical works, installation of digital control systems and full generator commissioning and testing.

The back-up power systems provider employs a team of engineers that ranges in age from 16 to over 65 years old. This blend of experience complements the business perfectly and helps it resource its jobs effectively with a mix of energy and experience.

Working carefully with customers in a variety of critical sectors, PPSPower develops cost-effective solutions that maximise the reliability of their back-up power systems.

The company also benefits from being part of a wider group of power solutions companies; its sister company YorPower distributes generators worldwide, while control and automation company Glenace and generator sales company Generator Warehouse further complement and strengthen the service offering.

5% club

PPSPower has committed to nurturing young talent and encouraging progression throughout the business. It is a proud member of the 5% club, a national campaign focused on creating momentum behind the recruitment of apprentices and graduates into UK workforce. Joining the club means PPSPower has committed to ensuring that at least 5% of its workforce is made up of apprentices, graduates or sponsored students on structured programmes within the next five years.

The firm’s apprenticeship programme has seen several members of the team develop into senior staff in an impressively short period of time. Junior staff are mentored by more experienced engineers and work collaboratively on projects to maximise their development.

Just a number

A standout recent appointment in PPSPower’s service team is that of 67-year-old George Barraclough, who recently joined the company as a lead engineer. George joined the team from a major FM provider and has an extensive background in project management and commissioning and installations of back-up power sources. George’s vast experience in electrical engineering project management was key to his appointment, while his passion for the job and motivation to continue working into his later years have provided inspiration for the younger members of the PPSPower team.

In a largely male-dominated sector, PPSPower has also bucked the trend by encouraging female engineers to take on roles within the back-up power industry. The appointment of Annmarie Wakefield in 2010 represented the first female to service generator and UPS systems for PPSPower. Since then, Annmarie has had a rapid rise through the ranks and now supervises the company’s UPS team in the Yorkshire region. She has become an epitome of the opportunities available for females in the industry, and acts as a coach and mentor to junior members of the team coming through their apprenticeships.

Discussing the benefits of PPSPower’s broad recruitment approach, managing director Stephen Peal says: “Our customers benefit from our diverse and nationally-based workforce. This isn’t something that has happened by accident, it is the result of strong planning, recruitment and training.

“We work to ensure there is a strong mix of expertise in each region we operate in. All regions are serviced by two lead engineers, one with a specialist background in mechanical engineering, engine rebuilds, repairs, installations and maintenance, and one that specialises in electricals, panel upgrades, testing and troubleshooting.”

Stephen adds: “Having this wide range of expertise is key for all of our clients but even more so when we work with them on a national basis. They need to know that we can deliver to our high standards wherever their sites are based.”

Absolute customer satisfaction

PPSPower works for organisations in a large range of sectors, providing nationwide back-up power solutions for clients in commercial, healthcare, manufacturing and retail environments, amongst others. The company provides generator and UPS services nationally for companies such as UNITE, Tesco, Kiely Bros, Menzies Distribution and several of the UK’s police forces. These organisations place trust in the firm’s dedicated engineering teams to provide absolute reliability to their power sources, and their trust continues to be rewarded.

The argument for diversity in the workforce is clear for all to see at PPSPower. The company’s latest customer satisfaction study showed 98% of respondents believe that PPSPower offers a great value for money service, stating that they are either satisfied or very satisfied with the work delivered. The highest score in the survey was on staff performance, with 99% of respondents saying that the organisation’s people do a great job, delivering consistently well day in, day out.

Stephen says: “We boast one of the largest, most capable and most diverse engineering teams in our industry, and they help us build secure, long-lasting relationships with our clients. The team, coupled with our fair pricing structure, which is tailored to our customers’ needs, make us a reliable and trusted organisation to look after all kinds of companies’ reliability needs.”

Diversifying the industry

On the subject of inclusive employment in the wider industry, Stephen says: ““There are many ways we can improve the number of female and ethnic minority employees in our sector; for example, employers need to re-examine their interior structures offering part time positions and sociable working hours.

“At PPSPower we have introduced several initiatives, including flexible working patterns and job shares to help better accommodate employees with families. We’ve also worked closely with organisations such as the Prince’s Trust in the past to see how we can offer training programmes and work placements to people who are looking to develop their knowledge and experience of the industry.”

PPSPower continues to engage in the development of diverse talent, while adopting a customer-focused approach which remains the backbone of the business. This philosophy has helped it become one of the most respected names in the power industry.

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