Welsh Water cleans up with Graduate Scheme of the Year 2016

Welsh Water returned victorious from London’s Park Lane this week after winning the Graduate Scheme of the Year at the Personnel Today Awards 2016. We take a look at its winning entry and the submissions of our two runners-up.


Dŵr Cymru
Welsh Water

About the organisation
Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water is the sixth largest of the 10 regulated water and sewerage companies in England and Wales. It is responsible for providing more than three million people with a continuous, high-quality supply of drinking water and for taking away, treating and properly disposing of the wastewater that is produced. Since 2001, it has been owned, financed and managed by Glas Cymru, a company limited by guarantee and therefore having no shareholders.

The challenge
The company had an ageing workforce, and needed better succession planning for its key leadership roles. It needed a programme that would future-proof the business, enhance employees’ capability to use new technology and create an inclusive workplace.

Graduate Scheme of the Year – the judges

Robert Aldrich, director, Exigency HR
Martin Edmondson
, chief executive, Gradcore

What the organisation did

  • Put in place a social media recruitment policy including Facebook-targeted adverts, Linkedin posts and targeted tweets to established groups.
  • Worked in partnership with Welsh universities to raise awareness of the graduate programme; posted opportunities through the universities’ database of students; and attended careers fairs to highlight the opportunities available.
  • Due to an 80% increase in the number of graduates applying through general job boards, it now places all graduate opportunities on job boards for the duration of the campaigns.
  • Benchmarked graduate salaries to other leading organisation in Wales and offered a £2,000 welcome payment to help with the associated costs of joining the programme.
  • Provided graduates with a structured onboarding programme, including: a timetable for the first six weeks to build effective relationships; allocated time with their executive mentor; and an introduction to executives and senior managers.
  • Offered 18-week rotational placements allowing graduates to develop and enhance their skills, gain an insight into different teams and gain a good grounding within the business.
  • Annually the graduates form a team to take part in The Prince’s Trust Million Makers Challenge, a competition challenging businesses to come together to raise £1 million to change young lives.
  • Encouraged graduates to participate in a number of initiatives to support wider business strategies, such as offering experience days to young women across Wales, supporting employability programmes at Welsh universities through participating in interview panels and providing feedback on presentations.
  • Worked with Business in the Community (BITC) on several events including supporting schools, where pupils role play interviews and tips for CV writing.

Benefits and achievements

  • Achieved Institute of Water Rising Star status and was a finalist for the Institute of Water innovation award.
  • Had a paper published in the Dams and Reservoirs journal.
  • Submitted 12 schemes totalling savings of £500,000 per annum plus more than £1.5 million upfront capital savings.
  • One graduate joined the CEO and managing director of Wastewater on a visit to Copenhagen to look at best practice sharing with Danish water companies on adaption to climate change.
  • Programme-managed Welsh Water’s £4.5 million solar photovoltaic generation investment programme, saving £480,000 per annum.
  • Once in their substantive posts, graduates continue to excel and 20% have since been promoted into management roles.
  • Seen a 32% increase in the number of applications received, which demonstrates the increase in awareness.
  • Graduates are all high calibre and there is a 100% conversion rate to roles; plus 43% of graduates are female.
  • Saved an average of 71% on management recruitment costs by investing in graduates and transitioning them into key operational leadership roles.
  • Raised more than £40,000 for The Prince’s Trust. In addition, graduates have raised money for the Samaritans and Water Aid, bringing total fundraising to more than £56,000.

Judge’s comments
“Good blend of university partnerships and broader attraction, followed by a comprehensive and considerate development plan, have led to excellent long-term conversion rates – supported by detailed evidence.”

Welsh Water receives its trophy for running the Graduate Scheme of the Year


BAE Systems

About the organisation
BAE provides technology-led defence, aerospace and security solutions and employs a skilled workforce of 82,500 people in more than 40 countries, including Australia, India, Saudi Arabia, the UK and USA.

The challenge
BAE needed to develop a pipeline of future employees who were committed, inspired and who could progress into roles with leadership responsibility. This aligns with its business objective “to inspire and develop our people to drive success”.

What the organisation did

  • Revised its “Graduate Developing You (GDY)” programme, which adopts a blended learning approach incorporating theoretical and experiential learning.
  • Designed and developed the GDY programme in partnership with Impact International, an experiential learning business with a close relationship with BAE Systems.
  • The programme inspires graduates to take responsibility for their learning, enables them to gain a better awareness of themselves and how they work and equips them with the ability to improve themselves so that they are more capable of tackling workplace challenges.
  • Offered participants challenges, development opportunities, skills enhancement and coaching both at a personal and team level. The programme is split over three modules spanning 18 months.
  • Introduced “stretch assignments” as an additional element of the programme. Graduates must pitch for their role of cohort leader, and will be assigned a cohort and support the learning process by helping the graduates to make links back to the business.
  • Invested in education with the Community Action Learning project – the graduates engage with hundreds of primary school children to inspire a future generation about the work BAE Systems does.
  • The graduates are asked to undertake workplace projects that deliver benefits to the business. This also strengthens the relationships with business stakeholders and senior leaders, who act as sponsors for this activity.

Benefits and achievements

  • Now in its third year, GDY has seen around 600 graduates complete the programme. This has increased on average by 20 employees each year.
  • On average, 71% of those who have been on the programme think it has provided them with greater self-awareness – mainly due to feedback.
  • When asked about their benefit to the business, 28% think that their personal development will benefit it; 24% said the business would benefit from their increased awareness; and 12% believe that the business will benefit due to their increased confidence.
  • Quotes from GDY alumni include: “I now have the confidence to make my ideas heard, influence teams and take the lead, which will have a good effect on the work I do in my business unit/function. The organisation is also now better linked by well-networked grads who have built strong relationships.”
  • Karen Gregson, UK learning and development lead says: “The GDY programme provides a platform for graduates to develop their leadership capabilities and prepare for future roles within the business. It is aligned to the global leadership behaviours which outline what is expected from our leaders now and in the future.”
  • The graduate scheme has gained a reputation for quality because it offers both technical and behavioural training and a strong support structure from its existing graduate network.

Judge’s comments
“Impressive scheme linked to business benefit. Has more resources than others and offers a full blended range of learning interventions for graduates.”

SNC-Lavalin Rail & Transit

About the organisation
SNC-Lavalin Rail & Transit is a leading international railway consultancy. SNC-Lavalin delivers its services to stakeholders at all levels from governmental and regulatory bodies to manufacturers and suppliers, and from maintainers, operators and asset owners to banks, financiers and international development agencies.

The challenge
Since the privatisation of the UK railway industry, SNC-Lavalin Rail & Transit recognised it needed to recruit and engage high-calibre engineers in order to have successors for the future of the business.

What the organisation did

  • Ensured that the graduate development scheme is supported by the senior management team level and is built into the three- to five-year UK business plan.
  • Enabled current graduates to provide input into the universities that SNC-Lavalin attends, the content of the website, the type of events the organisation attend and the promotional materials ordered to take to these events.
  • Engaged with students by taking part in university partnerships during the academic year, which consist of SNC-Lavalin graduates providing groups of university students with a final year project and supporting the project team by providing advice and guidance.
  • Implemented a thorough induction programme for all graduates, including a mix of volunteering and team building activities.
  • Encouraged graduates to take part in rail projects including painting, laying pathways and examinations of components.
  • Introduced a UK Rail Systems Course designed to integrate employees into the railway industry and delivered over eight days.
  • Developed internal placements to provide the graduates with assignment management experience and external placements at depots and manufacturers to gain a more complete understanding of the rail industry.
  • Set up support for graduates on the scheme, including: a dedicated line manager for all graduates; a buddy (graduate from the year above); and a mentor (chartered engineer).
  • Enabled graduates to come off the scheme and go into their “First Appointment Positions”, which are advertised dependent upon requirements from the teams.

Benefits and achievements

  • Once in their First Appointment Positions, the graduates work towards Chartered Engineer Status with their chosen institution.
  • This scheme has benefited the organisation in growing its own talent and supporting succession plans.
  • A significant number of graduates have progressed to leadership positions and others are on route to becoming the next technical expert in their field.

Judge’s comments
“Small-scale graduate scheme really linked to business requirements and has the challenge of being a lesser-known operation.”

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