Case Study: investing in employees to create sustainable talent pipelines and fill skills gaps at Dovecote Park, Netmatters and Sharing in Growth

by Sep 28, 2020Case studies

Dovecote Park
Whilst the breadth and depth of Covid-19 has impacted us all to some extent, there’s no denying that certain sectors have been extremely hard hit. The retail, healthcare and hospitality sectors have been badly affected and many businesses are looking to training more than ever to ensure that the right people are in place to deliver the vital skills needed as they work towards post-Covid recovery.
Dovecote Park
Date 2020
Region Yorkshire & Humber
Size 250-999 employees
Sector Food & Beverages
Sharing in Growth
With unemployment set to double to 4.5 million by the end of this year and the risk of mass redundancies due to the pandemic, City & Guilds Group has been calling for action from the Government to redirect skills funding in order to support people back into employment.
Sharing in Growth
Date 2020
Region East Midlands
Size 50-249 employees
Sector Aviation & Defence
As the UK begins to get back on the road to recovery one of City & Guilds Group’s recommendations is to use some of the National Skills Fund (NSF) to create Lifelong Learning & Employment Hubs to act as ‘one-stop-skills-and-jobs-shops’ supporting people into reskilling and back into work.

Netmatters Ltd
Date 2020
Region East of England
Size 50-249 employees
Sector Technology

In 2020 the Princess Royal Training Awards has seen a wide range of applications using training to address challenges across a variety of differing priorities. For some it was establishing the foundation for long-term organisational survival and for others it was responding to significant threats and implementing organisation-wide culture change. A number of recipients focused on how they have encouraged their employees to reskill or upskill in order to address organisational or wider sector skills gaps and this couldn’t be more relevant in the current unprecedented times.

Dovecote Park

This meat processing plant which is the number one provider of beef to Waitrose supermarkets, initially received a Princess Royal Training Award in 2018 for its innovative apprenticeship programme in order to ‘grow its own’ butchers and meet the organisation’s exacting standards.

Impact from the programme included impressive retention rates and a high percentage of female apprentices. On the back of this success the organisation decided to offer two new apprenticeships – Butchery and Performing Manufacturing Operations – to all of its 200 staff working in the Boning Hall. The objective was to increase yield on some of the cuts of meat produced, improve English language skills across non-native speakers and increase the number of employed female butchers.

The impact of the training been extraordinary including substantial monthly savings, doubling the number of female butchers and skill levels raised by an average of 32% across the business.

What is equally impressive is Dovecote’s support on encouraging reskilling from other areas of the business. Employees from the packing team who have shown an interest in the butchery side of the business have been encouraged to apply for an apprenticeship and a former cleaner at the factory has recently completed the Performing Managing Operations apprenticeship. Furthermore two former butchers have become skills coaches training the latest cohort of 35 new apprentices.

Female Butcher
Damien McKnight explains: “Previously we struggled to recruit qualified butchers. Now, using the apprenticeship levy, we are able to invest in and train reliable employees from other areas of the business using our trusted training provider PTS Training Academy. Doing this is win-win: we get butchers trained to our standards and employees with low levels of skills gain qualifications, a career and a pay rise. This has led to a retention rate of 83% of our apprentices.”

Netmatters Ltd

Another 2020 recipient, Netmatters Ltd, has also seen the value of changing how it recruits web developers in the face of regional skills shortages.

The web design and IT support agency based in Wymondham, Norfolk, begun to offer in-house technical training after struggling to recruit qualified employees due to a skills scarcity in the area.

At the same time the business committed to offering training to those in the community that may not have previously had the opportunity.

In order to meet its objectives to grow the business by 20% annually, Netmatters needed to recruit four technically-qualified staff per year. However since 2017 the business has trained 33 people, employing 13 of these directly; others who have completed the training have moved into tech roles with local businesses.

As well as making significant savings of over £30,000 on recruitment costs, Netmatters has met its ambitious growth aims and furthermore has created a pipeline of trained staff helping to address a critical skills gap in the region.

“Previously we struggled to recruit qualified butchers. Now, using the apprenticeship levy, we are able to invest in and train reliable employees from other areas of the business.”


Damien McKnight, Training Apprenticeship & Development Manager (Dovecote Park)

Sharing in Growth (SiG)

Non-profit company, Sharing in Growth (SiG), also received an Award in 2020. In 2013 the UK aerospace supplier industry was losing market share to overseas competitors who were typically 20% cheaper. Furthermore 53% of the smaller manufacturers were experiencing challenges in retaining and recruiting skills and 62% were also experiencing productivity issues.

Established in 2013 and sponsored by Rolls Royce to address some of these challenges, SiG’s mission is to drive the productivity of the UK aerospace sector to compete globally and in doing so secure 10,000 jobs by 2020.

Supported by industry experts, SiG created an intensive training programme to improve 60 participating organisations whose productivity is typically 30% less than larger industry suppliers.

Offering access to blue chip level training that is not normally available to smaller businesses, the tailored and immersive programme has enabled small to medium suppliers to benefit from high quality and effective training and development in order to achieve world class standards, compete globally and create new jobs.

Sharing in Growth

Impact has been impressive with over 11,000 employees having benefitted from the learning, participating organisations demonstrating improved sales and employment compared to their peers and securing a total of £4.7 billion pounds of new business attributed to the programme. Agile working also enabled suppliers to take on non-aerospace manufacturing orders during the Covid pandemic.

Investment in training comes in all shapes and sizes

Whilst all of these organisations are very different, the common theme is clear. All of the 2020 recipients of a Princess Royal Training Award are able to show how much value they place on learning and development and the impact that it is making both to the business and also to their people. During such testing times this is an investment that many of them will be glad to have made.


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