The lucky 13: Couch Perry & Wilkes’ trainee engineers for the future

Apprenticeship and training & development thrives at M&E consultancy

In the current economic climate many companies are pulling the plug on apprenticeship schemes and reducing training budgets, but thankfully, Couch Perry & Wilkes (CPW) is continuing to develop and support the next generation of electrical and mechanical engineers. Couch Perry & Wilkes is one of the UK’s largest environmental building services consultancies and experts in sustainability and low energy building.

Couch Perry & Wilkes has provided places for 13 new trainee engineers onto its apprenticeship programme and has recently recruited further trainees across its regional offices, including Birmingham, Cambridge, Nottingham and Leeds.

All training is CITB approved and involves day release courses at local colleges to gain ONC and HNC qualifications specialising in either mechanical or electrical engineering, with some of these engineers ultimately being sponsored to degree level. The company has established excellent relationships with local colleges, including South Birmingham College, Stourbridge College, and New College Nottingham, and actively consults with the college departments to make sure the engineers and CPW get the most out of the scheme.

Richard Brown, 22 years old, is three years into his four year apprenticeship at Couch Perry & Wilkes. Richard left school with no formal engineering qualifications but under the company’s highly respected apprenticeship scheme has spent the first two years studying for his ONC and is now in his final year of the HNC.

The company has supported him financially and practically during this period. Richard explains, “The apprenticeship scheme at CPW is excellent. Doing professional qualifications whilst receiving on the job training is invaluable. The company is friendly, approachable and is very supportive, even helping me with travelling costs to and from college. You never feel alone at CPW, and there are always plenty of people who will help explain things. Once I pass my HNC I will be a qualified engineer, although the company will still provide on-going training and development.”

In total, Couch Perry & Wilkes has 23 trainees, engineers and senior engineers who have completed their HNC in building services within the last five years. During this time, the company has invested in further training to provide accredited LCC (Low Carbon Consultants) Energy Assessors, BREEAM Assessors and PassivHaus Designers.

Steve Lakin is the Director responsible for the company’s new injection of talent and training and development. He said: “We strongly believe in maintaining a rolling programme of introducing new entrants in the company and the industry as a whole. Engineering UK identified the need at the end of 2009 for 587,000 skilled engineers to meet increased demand in areas such as green energy. The dramatic decline in the number of engineering graduates will present the UK with a long term problem if left unchecked. We consider this is one of the most important criteria for the practice to continue to succeed in the future.”

Steve concluded, “Couch Perry & Wilkes has a real culture of encouraging trainees to progress throughout the company and this includes a director and a number of senior engineers who have been employed since leaving school. We also encourage trainees to advance in professional development through in-house training and specialist certification and accreditation.”

The company, which employs 163 staff, is committed to providing tailored training and development programmes for all employees. This includes supporting staff in higher degrees and other educational qualifications, providing regular CPD seminars and external briefings. Trainees are also encouraged to attend fortnightly continual professional development seminars and external briefings to further develop their knowledge with new legislation and technologies.