With an increasing focus on the requirements for efficiency and sustainability in the water industry, it is also becoming increasingly important that the sector is equipped with skilled staff and experienced technicians to meet those requirements.
Mick Pratt, Commercial Director – Water, Environment and Safety, discusses how we’re helping to secure the future of the water industry by supporting the development of technicians, engineers and water consultants whilst also improving the technology and processes through collaborative research programmes and academic partnerships.
Investing in people
To be at the forefront of innovation and water technology, it’s important to continually strive to recruit and retain the industry’s leading technical experts – through recognising talent and supporting employee growth throughout their career.
Starting out in 2003, Tom Rees - now Principal Consultant - began his career with us after graduating from Bath University with a Batchelor of Applied Science degree. After 14 years, Tom’s longevity of tenure at SOCOTEC is clear testament to his professionalism, personal development and progression, and we’re proud to have supported his growth.
With Tom now supporting other graduates in their career progression, including Laura Harvey BSc, Graduate Consultant, from Portsmouth University, academic students can build their practical skillset, gain experience and utilise their knowledge to thrive within the industry.
In working with others, new graduates, technicians and engineers are able to adapt and learn first-hand, therefore increasing productivity and diversity in the workplace.
The water treatment and consultancy industry is never dull so being able to see varied working scenarios, encounter problems and overcome challenges is fundamental to developing well experienced and fully competent staff.
Developing our employees to reach their highest potential is our commitment – and should be for any forward thinking business. Since 2003, SOCOTEC have employed 15 graduates to take on consultancy roles in the water business.
A collaborative approach
Continual progression is important in every aspect, which means improving knowledge, skills, processes and services.
We want SOCOTEC employees to be passionate about the services we provide because it is this passion that inspires our staff to help drive the business and the industry forwards.
When Jon Fielder, SOCOTEC’s technical director for Water Treatment Equipment, Environment and Safety, wanted to develop an electrolytic disinfection device, the company approached Brunel University London to assist. In a five year collaboration between SOCOTEC and Brunel University, Protex! was further developed as part of a two year tenure with the Knowledge Transfer Partnership sharing resource and cost between the business and academic worlds.
KTP is a UK-wide programme to improve the sharing of knowledge, skills and technology, with graduate recruitment opportunities available via the programme. SOCOTEC recruited Giovanna Cossali, a PhD student, as research associate to work on the collaborative project. Protex! is an innovative electrolytic device which provides an environmentally friendly system for controlling pathogens in the water system. It does this by generating disinfectants directly from the water and chlorides dissolved within it.
Following the success of the mutually beneficial programme, Giovanna is now directly employed by SOCOTEC and has recently begun the role of Service Delivery Manager at SOCOTEC’s Thame office. Now, Giovanna is helping to support the business from a number of key technical aspects, including implementing development plans to improve the efficiency of strategic areas of the business.
The next generation
According to The Institution of Engineering and Technology, only 27% of Science and Engineering Technicians and 5.5% of Engineering Professionals are women. Giovanna is part of that figure, and having recently been awarded Chartership through the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, she is now internationally recognised as a competent and professional engineer.
To pass on her passion for engineering and distribute her knowledge to the next generation, Giovanna is supporting STEM* learning by delivering talks about water to primary schools in the local area, as well as CIBSE accredited presentations to professional bodies and charitable healthcare premises. Encouraging young people to get involved at an early age opens up their potential future for a STEM career path.
Education and training is important, no matter what age, to ensure water systems and processes are well managed and compliant. Tom is now fully qualified to deliver training to site personnel and conduct CIBSE accredited CPD courses. It’s a tried and tested cascade of knowledge to support continuous improvement and growth within the industry.
This culminates in reaping the rewards of initial investment through time and energy. Our staff work incredibly hard in their professional development, and we – as a business – recognise that we must invest in our employees to deliver the leading service provision that our clients have come to expect. Through this investment in staff, research, innovation and progression, we’re not only supporting the future of SOCOTEC and our clients, but also the industry as a whole.
* Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics