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20th August 2016
3 minutes

Property Developer Beech thinks outside the box

Finding talented candidates with the right skills remains a challenge for businesses across the country. It can pay to take a different approach, as Stephen Beech has found out.

With sector-specific skills shortages well documented, a Manchester-based development company has taken an international approach to solving its recruitment problems.

Beech Holdings, which renovates dilapidated buildings, found a shortage of candidates for its architectural technician roles, which is needed to fill quickly after buying 15 buildings in 18 months.

After a chance meeting led to employing a candidate from Spain, Beech has recruited a further 39 from countries such as Portugal, Greece and Italy. Through this and other recruitment, it has grown from ten staff to 75 in two years. Owner Steve Beech believes the shortage arouse because of the role, which involves working on the internal aspects of a building, is less popular than that of architect. He says: “it’s not considered as sexy as designing a new tower block, but actually were bringing older buildings back to life at a fast pace. We really struggled to find the people we needed but the talent we found abroad has been exceptional and really helped grow our business. “

At Forrest, the building contractor based in Bolton, an ongoing skills shortage has changed the culture around learning and development. Annual appraisals of skills have been scrapped in favour of a day-2-day strategy, with a skills matrix provide for each employee and scores on their performance.

Line managers review their team’s skills daily and individuals can be referred to a blended learning program, which includes tutorials from in house trainers, e-learning modules or two-day courses. “If things are slipping, we can act quickly conversely, if people are going above and beyond their roles they don’t need to wait a year to be rewarded. “Says Paul Rigby, Head of people services. “It has also helped us to more effectively develop softer skills, it makes little sense to wait months to discuss and address something that could be changed by a half/day training course or a few pointers from a mentor, and the new process tackles this in a far more agile way. Not only does this give an ongoing better view on how people can progress their careers, but we can better assess what the talent across our business needs to develop. “ EEF, the manufacturer's organisation, is warning that productivity gains are being threatened by a shortage of skills. Manufacturers are reporting that applicants lack relevant technical skills and experience, in addition to there being too few applicants.

Paul Gibbens, client relationship director of Scamtec, a Birkenhead – based consultancy for the science, technology and engineering sectors, says shortages in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) have led to new ways of finding candidates.

He says “we’ve looked to industries where there were transferable skill sets – for example, someone who’s worked in oil and gas can offer skills in the nuclear sector – and we advised the business on additional training they all need. It’s been a huge benefit to some of our clients and we’ve had hundreds of contractors move to brand new industries. “

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