Estee Ross, whose father Richard Bridgman is the founder and owner of Warren Services, is the firm’s HR Manager. She grew up working there along with her brother Will, Warren Services’ Chairman and her first job was cleaning the factory and offices. After doing her A- Levels and working in various jobs in Birmingham she returned to Warren Services in 2007, starting on the shop floor, then moving to accounts, and once she completed a CIPD qualification and realised that she liked it Estee went on to manage HR across the business.
A large part of Estee’s role now is dedicated to handling the liaison between Warren Services and schools, colleges and work experience placements.
“It is very time consuming”, said Estee, “but it’s one of Warren Services’ selling points and one of the reasons why we never struggle like other businesses in the area, who try to encourage younger people to join the business. We have a strong relationship with the community, the high school, Thetford academy and our local college West Suffolk College. This takes a lot of time and effort on our side but it is worth it.”
Apprentices, training and development
Warren Services is a project-based business and as such tries to make sure that all the people are cross-trained and are not specific to one area only, which makes their workforce flexible and agile. About 50% of Warren Services’ workforce is able to move to another to another function if needed.
According to Estee, since they don’t know what sort of skills the business would need in 10 years, they try to give young people a wide range of training. Warren Services currently offer every apprentice an opportunity to go on to a degree.
Warren Services have always based their apprenticeships on level 3 apprenticeships and also supported level 2 apprenticeships in some cases. Two years ago they began to move away from the level 3 apprenticeships towards higher apprenticeships like HNC, HND and a degree.
They also offer ILM level 3 training for managers and cover many additional mandatory training, like fire awareness, operating forklifts and cranes and others. In addition, Warren Services offer employees specialised courses like AutoCAD, and last year they trained around 60% of their workforce on-site for continuous business improvement techniques, like Lean and 5S.
Estee Ross, Warren Services' HR Manager talks about workforce training and development.
Estee Ross, Warren Services' HR Manager talks about the important role apprentices play in the business.
Management and Leadership skills
According to Estee, they didn’t used to put a lot of emphasis on management and leadership skills but then realised that created an issue for them. A few years ago Warren Services changed the business structure and now there are more middle management and they decided to invest in the ILM qualifications for the managers.
“We are going to invest more in that to cover some of the areas that we feel that we are a bit lacking at the moment”, said Estee. “We’ve struggled with middle management and spent a lot of time on ILM training. I think we are one of the manufacturers who provide the most comprehensive training to our employees.”
According to Estee, they are now more selective with management and before they promote someone to a managerial position they make sure they have completed their ILM qualification.
(from left to right: Richard Bridgman, Will Bridgman, Estee Ross and Peter Brimson)
Women in Engineering
Like in many manufacturing companies, Warren Services don’t have many women working on the shop floor. According to Estee they do have some women working but not enough and they keep working on changing that.
“We have one lady on the shop floor and we do our very best to encourage women into engineering, said Estee. “We are trying to engage with young women in schools and colleges, we’ve had women on work experience but not necessarily in the shop floor environment. There is definitely a lack of women in engineering and I personally think there are still some barriers because of the perception women have of manufacturing, especially at a young age".
According to Estee there shouldn’t be any issues with women carrying out any of the tasks they now do at Warren Services – there’s a lot of aid and infrastructure and there’s no physical activity that might create limitations, like heavy lifting involved for example. Women can easily program machines. They also had a female welder last year.
Richard Bridgman’s biggest concern with Brexit is losing the foreign employees that they currently have, which is around 20% of the workforce.
“There’s very low unemployment”, said Richard, “which makes it difficult to find workers. We’re riding on the success of having spent the time talking to schools, colleges, universities – so we don’t have any problem getting people to come to the business. Last year we sent out a letter to all our employees to tell them that we will support them in any way we can.”
Warren Services have just finished working on a high profile project for the stage show of worldwide famous musicians (who must remain confidential until the launch of their tour). Peter Brimson, Warren Services’ Production Manager describes the project as having short lead times and high expectations from the customer.
“We are nearly finished with building all the steel and mechanical work for a stage show with two movable bridges for a concert of one of the biggest performers in the world of music”, said Peter, “which will be shown throughout Europe and the US. The bridges will travel down the length of the stadium on tracks that will be lit up with fluorescent lighting that change colour. The artists will be performing on those bridges above the crowd in the middle of the stadiums.”
Another project Warren Services worked on last year was part of the new Queen Elizabeth underground line in London. They were engaged by a local company to manufacture the transitions controlling the air underground.
“This was an exciting project to work on but very technically challenging”, said Peter, “as we had to connect a four meter square base to a one meter round top and bolt in a big fan in between the two parts. We learned a lot doing this project and also used some external expertise. We were able to provide a solution for the client and to deliver the project on time.”
Sustainability and the environment
Warren Services are fully aware of our commitment and liabilities to the environment, especially when it comes to recycling.
“We have just embarked on a scheme that we now do not stock up material”, said Peter, “so we only purchase what we need to complete the job. You won’t see piles of metal, plastics or paints around the factory because we buy to order”.
They recycle all of the unused material, like wood and steel and also clean other materials which they then give back to the supplier and it goes back into the supply chain. According to Peter, Warren Services collate unused material and put it up for sale on an auction site, so even unused material ends up being used. They promote travelling between their two sites on push bikes they have available for employees and also offer chargers for electric cars in both locations.