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Skills for Growth helps company drive towards success


A Dunfermline based company has seen big benefits to their businesses after getting support through Skills for Growth.

United Industrial Supplies distribute workshop consumables to the automotive market all across the UK and have 35 employees.

Fiona Lovell (left in picture), Director of Finance and Operations, and Roslyn Eckford (right in picture), Director of Sales and Marketing, have been in charge of the company since company director Chris Howe sadly passed away in 2020. His wife, Marta is the Chief Operating Officer of the company and remains involved in everyday operations.

Roslyn said “It has been a period of change for us and the business. Despite the changes the team has shown great loyalty and resilience.”

United Industrial Supplies 10

Fiona added “As well as the changes in the company management we were also affected by the pandemic and because we import from Europe, changes from Brexit. The business was stable, but to enable us to grow we knew we needed help with changing the culture of the business and like many other businesses, we needed to adapt our plan for the future.

Roslyn continued “As a company with a number of long serving employees, we knew we needed to identify skill gaps, focus on staff training and get support with succession planning so we contacted Fife College, and they put us in touch with Skills Development Scotland.”

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) Employer Engagement Executive Kathryn Hill got in touch and explained the Skills for Growth process to Fiona and Roslyn.

Skills for Growth is a fully-funded service for companies with between five and 250 employees and helps employers identify and understand their skills needs. A detailed Employer Action Plan is developed with guidance towards the most relevant training, funding and local business support which is based on their identified skills need. 

Fiona said “Kathryn met with all employees to check that everyone understood their job role and responsibilities and how they fitted in to the wider organisation, how they felt about working for UIS and what prospects they saw for themselves for career progression within the company. After that, she drew up an action plan with a series of recommendations.”

Actions identified included making sure everyone had an up-to-date job description, having regular 1-2-1 meetings and creating an employee handbook for all staff. Roslyn said: “We got some training organised to help with certain skills gaps in the business, including health and safety training, mental health training, telesales training and job specific on the job training.”

Kathryn also put them in touch with Scottish Enterprise Team, SMAS (Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service), who worked with the team to identify areas of waste and then helped to identify eight improvement projects that will help streamline business processes.

Steve Aikman, a specialist from SMAS said “I was introduced to Fiona and Roslyn by Kathryn after it was identified that SMAS could support with training and development of staff. We started with an operational excellence review which helped provide a roadmap for how we could support UIS over the coming years. Fiona and Roslyn saw the value of this and started with Lean Awareness training for 20 of the team which included a basic understanding of the value of lean tools and techniques and a list of eight Continuous Improvement projects all defined by the team. All projects are cross functional.

“We completed a mid-term project check where champions from the first two completed projects presented results and learnings to the rest of the team. Part of the check was to define the next set of projects for the team which will keep UIS moving in an upwards trajectory and help support future business growth. SDS had recently completed a Skills for Growth 360º review of UIS which provided recommendations for further success, which helped inform the next set of projects. It’s a great example of support agencies working together, leveraging each other’s skill sets to support our shared customer. The last piece of support work was a digital review, completed jointly by SMAS and SE Digital which is designed to help the company understand what’s possible in a digital environment which will support other ongoing projects and business needs.

“We’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with the team and seeing them grow and improve and we’re looking forward to the next phase of projects at UIS!”

Roslyn said “SMAS have been amazing in supporting us. All our employees are part of a project team and it has been one of the biggest successes as it has brought people together, they are all connected and engaged. It’s amazing to witness and see employees shine.

All our employees are part of a project team and it has been one of the biggest successes as it has brought people together, they are all connected and engaged. It’s amazing to witness and see employees shine.

Roslyn Eckford, Director of Sales and Marketing, UIS

“We’ve seen people grow in confidence and learn new skills, for example we had one employee who wasn’t very confident, volunteer to stand up in front of the sales team and deliver a presentation, something he would never have done before.”

Fiona continued “It’s also been great to help with identifying skills gaps. We’re now looking into how we bring apprentices into the workforce and identifying which areas to place them into. This will help bring fresh talent and ideas into the business. SDS has been supporting us with this.

“We were also provided with templates to help with things like staff development and 1-2-1 meetings. This has been really helpful to have these resources available to us.”

Roslyn added “It’s been just over a year since we engaged with SDS and we were delighted when they offered to do a 360º Review. SDS took a sample of employees and it was great to receive feedback that the team feel listened to, involved in the business and valued. We put a lot of this down to the work from SDS and SMAS. As well as the openness of our employees to embrace change.

“Kathryn still keeps in touch, sending us info on things like funding and research that she thinks would be useful to us.”

 Kathryn said: “Over the last year I’ve seen the company grow and change the culture within the business. Staff have been keen to take on new training and new ways of working as they can see the benefit. Roslyn and Fiona have made the difference as they’ve engaged with our recommendations and see the potential to grow the business further.

“Skills for Growth gave them the structured plan to be able to prioritise the recommendations and for us to create an employer action plan. Seeing the recommendations actioned was proof of how far they had progressed.

“I’m looking forward to continuing our work with United Industrial and seeing the business grow further.”

You don’t realise how much you can get out of something like Skills for Growth – the difference that it’s made to our business has been great. We would definitely recommend Skills for Growth to other small businesses.

Fiona Lovell, Director of Finance and Operations, UIS

Want to know more?

Find out how Skills for Growth can help your business. Call 0800 783 6000 or visit the Employer Hub.

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