Following the furloughing of staff when the country went into lockdown, furloughed employees have been able to brush up on skills or acquire new ones through a range of online courses provided by the group’s learning and development team.

Some of the training has included preparing staff for the remobilisation of construction sites in line with government guidance on social distancing, hygiene, health and well-being.

Topics have included manual handling and environmental awareness.

“The construction industry has ongoing training to adhere to legislative requirements, including subjects such as manual handling, fire and environmental awareness, behavioural training around diversity and respect and now incoming guidelines around coronavirus awareness,” said Susan Hudson, learning and development manager at Stewart Milne Group.

“We would normally facilitate bespoke training within a classroom setting at our offices but, with many employees wanting to fill their time productively, we’ve been able to offer them the opportunity to learn from home and use their downtime to complete modules. This has meant that we’re able to get back to work, safely and effectively, as soon as the restrictions are lifted.”

Online courses were shared with more than 780 employees across Stewart Milne offices and sites in Scotland, the north-west of England and Oxford.

Run by e-leaning platform IHASCO, all training is IOSH certified and courses are delivered using easy-to-follow videos.

“Although we had previously explored online training courses, our staff have tended to opt for hands-on training,” said Ms Hudson. “Our workforce is mainly made up of individuals who are used to being ‘hands-on’ and doing courses in a classroom setting was the preferred option. However, with time on their hands and the rapid transition to remote working, the digital approach has been welcomed.

“As well as the added benefit of getting to grips with modules in their pyjamas, they can also run the training in their own time – pausing or rewinding when they need to go over specific points. This takes away any embarrassment they might normally feel ‘sticking their hands up’ and means they can be completely comfortable with the information being shared.”

In addition to industry courses and training, Stewart Milne Group also sent links to free training that supports employee health and well-being.

This included open university courses and recommended e-learning classes on learning new languages, developing cooking skills and a focus on mental health.

With more than two-thirds of furloughed employees using the training tools, Stewart Milne Group is positive that remobilising across its sites will prove a smooth and safe one.

“Safety and competency on and off site are our priorities and, with Covid-19, adding more risks we are doing everything we can to support our employees and make sure they are fully prepared for the phased return to work,” said Stuart McGregor, chief executive of Stewart Milne Group. “Signs and guidelines will of course be in place, but the training being undertaken means that our teams feel safe and reassured.

“Many of the courses will also equip them with new skills for their continued professional development (CPD) allowing them to consider or achieve new opportunities within the group.”