Focusing on developing home-grown talent

Five people standing on the pavement outside a building. They are dressed in office attire.

Wincer Kievenaar is focused on developing home-grown talent. From left, Taylor Locke, Connor Mothersole, Megan Clarke, Jake Wilson and Staszek Stuart-Thompson - Credit: Wincer Kievenaar 

Sue Wilcock speaks to directors Craig Western and Philip Branton about how Wincer Kievenaar is focused on the development of its people. 

Issues that continue to dominate the construction industry are the skills shortage and the ongoing challenge of retaining good people once you have them onboard. This has led Wincer Kievenaar Architects to expand and develop its approach to nurturing local home-grown talent; something it has been doing since the company started trading in 1980. 

Craig Western explains: “We have always invested in the individuals in our team, to ensure they are given the support they need to continue their studies and achieve their qualifications. 

“Qualifying as a chartered architect can take seven to ten years and is broken down into three parts. This means that we, as employers, need to be flexible in accommodating the needs of the individual, listening to them and taking onboard how they want to learn and develop, rather than taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach. 

“For instance, we have members of our team who have taken the full-time university route, gaining some exposure to working in a practice by spending time with us in the holidays and in their year placement. We also have degree apprentices who have joined us straight from school and are studying on a day release basis, but then spend the rest of the week gaining real life work experience here with us. 

“It really depends on the individual and how they want to learn; all are working to the same end game. We are happy for them to go whichever direction they want to.” 

Whatever the route taken, everyone receives financial support for their courses, and are given time to study. Also, throughout, they receive ongoing professional guidance and mentoring from the more experienced members of the team at Wincer Kievenaar. 

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“However, although it takes a bit longer to achieve their qualification, the apprentices have a slight edge, as they are being paid a salary while studying,” Mr Western continues. “Also, more importantly, the apprentice gains more exposure to practice life and on-the-job experience, which is incredibly important, as it enables them to contribute and apply what they are learning at university. There are also no course fees as we contribute to the costs, as well as the government providing support through the Apprenticeship Levy. 

“Overall, the most satisfying thing for us is that this flexible approach has led to people staying at Wincer Kievenaar once they have achieved their qualifications, going on to achieve successful careers.” 

Yet nurturing home-grown talent isn’t just about those that are studying for their qualifications, it is also about the continuing professional development of the more longstanding members of the team. Wincer Kievenaar is 17-strong and directors, Phil and Craig, are supported by senior associates Chris Hyam and James Rush - who between the two of them have worked in the practice 

in excess of 55 years - as well as Megan Clarke and Staszek Stuart-Thompson who were recently promoted to associates. 

Phil Branton is proud of the achievement of Megan and Staszek. 

“Their promotion was made in recognition of their loyalty to Wincer Kievenaar and their dedication to upholding the practice’s core values. Megan has been with us since 2010 and completed her part one and part two work placements with us. Staszek is a chartered architect and qualified in 2015 having completed his part three qualification with the practice. 

“Most of the team has grown up with us and I think a strong reason for them staying with us is because they like and enjoy what we do and how we are. We take the time to talk to them to find out what they want and how they want to work. We then try to implement the environment they’re looking for. 

“For instance, the team are keen to get back to the office post pandemic, although with the flexibility to work from home. Therefore, we are reorganising the office in Hadleigh, so it becomes a much more collaborative space where people can be creative together, whether they are sitting in the office, or linking up with us via the internet. 

“There are a multitude of benefits that come from nurturing your own home-grown talent pool, but perhaps the most important is that it can make the difference between a company that grows and a company that stagnates. We feel that having loyal, competent and happy employees is an essential element to Wincer Kievenaar’s future success.” 

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