BEST EDUCATION, TRAINEE OR APPRENTICE PROGRAMME - LARGE
WINNER: NORTHERN IRELAND WATER
Best Education, Trainee or Apprentice Programme (Large) winners, NI Water. Pictured are Alistair Stewart from award sponsor Queen’s University Belfast; Nicole Feenan, Sara Venning and Francis McErlean, NI Water
Northern Ireland Water: A bold and ambitious strategy pays dividends
NI Water (NIW) is powered by the outstanding talent of its people. Attracting, developing and retaining top talent is core to remain fit for the future and to fulfil their people strategy ambition to provide a great place to work.
Since 2019, NI Water has significantly invested in growing emerging talent and linking students to the workplace through a wide-scale outreach strategy aimed at influencing early career and study choices and address skills shortages in STEM, while the development of a new apprenticeship academy, tackling ongoing recruitment and succession planning challenges has also been key.
Their bold vision has earned NI Water the award for Best Education, Trainee or Apprentice Programme (Large) at the WEA awards.
Over the last three years, their apprentice academy has gone from strength-to-strength, growing and diversifying into new business areas to support NIW’s strategic ambitions and adapting to evolving business needs. Their academy has provided important employment opportunities to 108 people post-Covid and has also supported NIW’s diversity, inclusion and levelling-up ambitions helping to build a healthier staff mix and supporting significant cultural change.
“Our winner’s employer brand is fundamental to attracting new talent, particularly in the utility industry that has long suffered from “image problems”. In an increasingly competitive labour market, making water “sexy” is a real challenge–but they managed it so spectacularly.”
In their submission statement, NI Water said: “Our employer brand is fundamental to attracting new talent, particularly in the utility industry that has long suffered from ‘image problems’.
“In an increasingly competitive labour market, making water “sexy” is a real challenge.
“In the last three years we have doubled our social media presence, incorporating Tik Tok
videos, use of social media influencers and virtual reality footage to engage our target demographic and encourage them to be part of something bigger.
“The academy is underpinned by a rolling programme of schools, college and community outreach through which we promote NIW as an employer of choice and tackle skills shortages in STEM by influencing career and study choices at an early age.
“We hold a popular annual parents evening to showcase our academy and influence-the-influencers.”
Apprentices are happy – in a recent apprentice survey, 100 per cent of respondents stated that NIW is providing a rewarding career and 100 per cent would recommend working for NIW to others.
NIW has also experienced a 98 per cent retention rate from their academy to date which is impressive for early careers.