A North-East housing association is predicting efficiencies after investing in a new training programme that will allow them to adopt a multi-skilled approach to their repairs and maintenance service.  

By up-skilling their trade staff they will not only create efficiencies but improve the service they offer to their customers.

More than 140 members of the responsive repairs team at Sunderland-based Gentoo, which owns and manages more than 29,000 homes across the city, are benefiting from free training being delivered by Sunderland College through the regional Go>Grow scheme.

The move will see plumbers, electricians and other tradespeople equipped with additional skills, enabling them to complete more repairs on the first visit to a customer’s home.

The initiative is part of a drive by Gentoo to improve the efficiency and the level of service delivered to customers. It is predicted to generate cost savings over a number of years equating to approximately £250,000, through increased productivity, better utilisation of resources and a reduction in travel times.

The savings will be reinvested back into the local community and into housing stock improvement programmes.

Once the training finishes in April 2018, more than 140 people will gain a Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Building Maintenance Multi-trade Repair and Refurbishment.  

Alex Hammond, head of learning and organisation development at Gentoo said: “Gentoo has a strong track record of developing talent and supporting people to be the best they can be. This is all part of our workforce planning; ensuring we have the right people with the right skills to deliver an outstanding level of service to our customers.

“This initiative is a great example of how strategic partnerships can add value to your business and create learning and development opportunities for your staff.

“We are always looking to improve our services and up-skilling our repair teams will help us do that. This qualification will give staff the skills to carry out basic repairs in several different disciplines, therefore increasing the number of repairs we complete on the first visit.

“For example, our joiners will be able to fix minor plumbing repairs while onsite, saving time and money. These savings will be reinvested into front-line services meaning our customers and communities will benefit well into the future.”

The initiative is part of a regional skills and enterprise programme, Go>Grow, which has been launched in partnership with over 30 local training providers. The programme was launched after Gateshead College secured £15m of funding from the European Social Fund through the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

Sunderland College, a Go>Grow partner, is delivering the training over a 12-month period at Gentoo’s Doxford Park site.

Iain Nixon, executive director at Sunderland College, said: “Gentoo’s a great example of how businesses of all sizes can benefit from Go>Grow courses, which offer interesting, relevant and beneficial learning and development opportunities.

“They offer the chance for employers to upskill their workforce in these competitive times through focused training that delivers tangible advantages and quantifiable savings.”

Ivan Jepson, director of business development at Gateshead College, said: “Go>Grow partners are combining their expertise and resources to secure the future of our businesses and entrepreneurs.

“This will help to generate new employment opportunities and boost growth, which is all crucial to the economic prosperity of the North East over the next few years.”

Go > Grow has the backing of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and the North East of England Chamber of Commerce. Experts will work to develop training that meets individual needs of businesses, or offer those who wouldn’t ordinarily undertake training programmes, the opportunity to access bespoke packages specific to their needs.

A tailor-made programme is then developed and delivered at any of the Go>Grow training provider sites, or within the premises of the individual businesses.