“Our offering is going to help employers future-proof their teams’ skillset”

Matthew Gray, Develop's Head of Operations & Training

Develop Training has been part of the JTL Group since 2019 and has big plans for the future – Matthew Gray, Develop’s Head of Operations & Training, spoke to Lucy Dixon about its lifelong learning offering.

Where does Develop sit within the JTL group?

JTL is one of the largest work-based learning providers in England and Wales, training more apprentices than anyone else in the building services engineering sector. Develop was acquired by JTL back in 2019 with the idea that Develop was going to be the new commercial training arm within the group. JTL previously delivered commercial training however, the infrastructure is primarily designed for apprenticeship delivery, and doesn’t lend itself very well to commercial delivery. Conversely, Develop was also delivering apprenticeships, but the infrastructure and the way the company is set up is more suited to commercial training. So it made absolute sense that both organisations focus on what we do best.

And how has the transition gone?

It has been progressing slowly – the pandemic put a dampener on plans for many training providers and the impact of that is still lingering, but JTL and Develop are really coming together now and we’re gathering momentum.

Develop has now gone from six to 18 training centres, as well as continuing to deliver a lot of our training on site and at customer sites. We’re broadening out the commercial training delivery to better support, in particular, JTL’s customers and the building services engineering sector with the upskilling of their employees and tackling the gaps in the workforce as well. We’re already seeing a strong uptake of training from JTL’s customers primarily because we can deliver the majority of it from the local centres their apprentices are already training at. This makes it convenient and easily accessible for the rest of their workforce. Plus, both Develop and JTL are really well-known brand names in their respective industries so employers know they can rely on us to provide a high quality service.

Who are your trainees?

Develop delivers short courses, which although they’re called ‘short courses’, covers anything from a three-hour course up to a two-year NVQ. That’s classed as short course provision compared to apprenticeship delivery. The sectors that we operate in are utilities, construction, defence, healthcare, facilities management and telecommunications . Each year we provide training to more than 30,000 professionals, ranging from those employed by large, global organisations to self-employed trades people. The majority of the organisations in the building services engineering sector are small to medium enterprises, so we are adjusting our delivery model to be able to better support those smaller businesses moving forward.

What are you teaching them?

At the moment, there’s a huge demand for low and high voltage electrical, heating and ventilation, building controls, those sorts of skills. And as we know, there’s already a skill shortage in these areas. Our latest portfolio offering is going to help employers future-proof their teams’ skillset and will include courses on heat pumps, thermal stores, battery energy storage systems, solar PV, and EV charging. JTL delivers the apprenticeships, which is the main part of the qualifications that new starters in the industry are going to need, but then there’s all the upskilling, the additional qualifications, the CPD and lifelong learning – all equally important, which Develop covers. It will be very much a collaborative approach.

How do you keep up-to-date with what skills are most in demand?

The way we are set up means we can complete skills gap analysis with our customers and point them in the right direction to get their employees to the best possible position within the industry. Broadly, the demand is for the move to net zero and of course tackling the skills shortages, which are across all sectors we work in – they are struggling for skilled individuals coming into the sector, and then for those people to be able to be trained suitably.

We’re constantly working with our customers to meet their needs, and our portfolio of courses is all being steered towards net zero. We’ve also got strong relationships with industry bodies such as the ECA, JIB, and IGEM, and they provide us with information on the changing needs of industry, as well as ensuring that we align our curriculum with current industry standards and requirements.

Do you offer virtual learning?

Around 22% of our courses are delivered virtually at the moment. We transitioned during the pandemic, but we were already on the path and it just accelerated the process. A lot of our customers were classed as key workers because they were maintaining the distribution of gas, water, or other networks, so we had to support them to be able to keep their staff skilled and safe in the workplace. Virtual learning is not something we offer for all our courses simply because it doesn’t suit the practical nature of our delegates roles. However, we’ve been able to adapt many of our courses that are largely classroom based to this delivery method and our customers have embraced it because of the financial, travel and environmental impact it has for their business. We’ve also adapted some of our courses to a blended learning model which means that the theoretical learning aspects can be delivered remotely, with delegates only needing to physically attend the practical training sessions. All of this means  our trainers are now very experienced at managing and delivering a range of delivery methods in-line with our customers’ preferences.

We’ve got a range of 65 e-learning courses, including IOSH, leadership & management, and more, which have come online in the last six months. They are designed to supplement and integrate with the courses that we already offer, and are another string to our bow in terms of the lifelong learning model I mentioned earlier.

We’re always open to customers coming and speaking to us about further opportunities and if there’s a course that we deliver that we think can be switched to virtual training, we’re always happy to look into it. We’re very customer and market driven.

What’s next for Develop?

We’re continuing to strengthen our position in the building services engineering sector, supporting our sectors and customers transition to net zero, particularly  electricians, plumbers, heating and ventilation engineers, building management systems and fire control. A lot of courses for those audiences, we already deliver, and have been doing so successfully for many years now, so it’s just a case of engaging with them and letting them know we’re now delivering on their doorstep from 18 UK-wide centres, or their own sites.

With JTL and Develop working together, we can take an apprentice right through their career from day one when they’re first learning their trade, and follow it up with regular CPD and upskilling short courses throughout the length of their career. We want to be a one-stop shop and our customers also want that because it makes their lives easier when they know they’ve got a trusted training partner that they can rely on. By integrating Develop and JTL more closely, we’re able to offer that lifelong learning model, so our customers do not need to look past JTL & Develop for any of their training needs!