Title: Are your people technical enough?

This post is based on an article I wrote for the 2021 Q1 edition of the Institute of Water magazine

When I was doing my A levels, Chemistry, Physics and Pure Maths, I had to know and be able to answer questions about electronic orbitals configurations and the order they were filled in, the equations of motion and be able to differentiate and integrate equations from first principles. And I still can to this day. Truly gifts that keeps giving.

Today a level 3 qualification is held to be the equivalent of A Levels. So why am I not seeing topics like I studied when delivering L3 courses? Also why is there a move away from the broader courses like the Water Operations s HNC and the Cabwi L4 diplomas in favour of shorter, more specialised courses?

One argument is that the current L3 technical courses are more practical, focusing on the “what” rather than the “why”. I disagree with this.

My first reason is personal. I feel I perform better because I have a wide-ranging technical background, and both a Cranfield MSc, which has whole new meanings for the word “technical”, and an MBA. Together they give me a wide variety of problem solving tools

Does it actually work? Well, for nearly five years in the last eight I have been doing nominally full-time interim roles on three days a week contracts. And did other work, had days off and enjoyed a sensible work-life balance.

My second reason is that I see individuals who delve into the “why” seem to have better career outcomes than those who are just happy to pass tests and exams. This is subjective, but I stand by it as an opinion.

I also see something similar for those who take an interest in what goes on in other parts of their organisation.

Sadly, organisations are increasingly employing people in narrower, more specialised, roles in the interest of efficiency. I argue that this is a false economy in the medium term. I foresee the most talented individuals becoming frustrated by narrow job roles and looking to broaden their experience elsewhere.

Remember, we are in a period where something like a third of the utility sector workforce is reaching retirement age in the next five years. Yes, a third. Also, there are fewer young people in the population and the young people in the jobs market are turning away from STEM studies.

This is not a great time to risk losing your best pest people. And it is your best people who will find it easier to get another job.
What can you do about it? Think about what your people want from a job, typically wanting it to be fulfilling and rewarding, and above all to be appreciated.

Studies have shown that wider ranging jobs and offering development opportunities helps with attracting and retaining staff. For example, graduates consistently put development opportunities ahead of salary when considering potential jobs.

BWEC can help you, too. If you have an idea for a broader based approach for the training and development of your workforce that current qualifications don’t cover, give me a call.

I’m currently doing this, on behalf of Merit Skills, with a new qualification on Reverse Osmosis for the AquaGib, aka Gibraltar Water. With a newly developed unit, an adapted unit, and an existing unit they have a training pathway that really suits their situation.

Why settle for what you are being offered? Have what you really want.


I hope that you have enjoyed reading this post. If you have thoughts on what I have written so far please leave a comment.

Also if you have an idea for another business topic let me know and I’ll be delighted to find a space for it.

Thanks again

Bob windmill

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