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Understanding learning

Careers profile

Halcrow is one of the largest recruiters of engineering graduates in the UK - currently employing 150 a year - and has accredited training schemes for the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE). Graduates are encouraged to register on a graduate training scheme after a six month 'bedding down' period.

Graduates are given regular reviews with senior 'mentor' engineers who agree and monitor their development.

Adrian Terry (left), Halcrow's group staff development manager, says: 'We treat people as individuals with individual needs and, providing what they wish to achieve aligns to our business plans, seek to develop their talent in the most effective way. Professional development does not stop with chartership and we operate several schemes to continue to develop our people, including a prestigious management development course at Cranfield University and full funding and other support for those wishing to study at higher levels.'

The company is increasingly using online learning. Terry says it 'provides flexibility and is cost effective', but adds: 'It is not without its pitfalls. It is easier to start and not complete a learning package; some people find it difficult to use. And it requires uninterrupted access to the internet for full effectiveness. These shortcomings can be overcome by good management of the development process. The strengths of e-learning are that it is repeatable, so people can repeat the same unit as many times as they wish. We make sure it comes in small elements so that it can be taken on an 'as needs' basis.

Learning styles and preferences do vary, and we find the maximum benefits can be seen where it is complementary to other forms of development, ' he adds, explaining that the company is aiming for a 'blended learning' approach mixing a variety of on and off the job development and e-learning approaches.

Terry is heavily involved in the 'Act Now!' change programme, which encourages individuals to take responsibility for leading change. 'There is no reason why individual development and team working should be in conflict, ' he explains. 'The key to this is 'purpose'. If an individual is developing their skills to enhance team performance then this cannot be in conflict. If it is for selfish reasons, or with no clear purpose, there may be a compromise of team performance to the needs and wants of the individual. Act Now! is driving a better understanding of purpose and highlighting shortcomings and development needs at individual, team and corporate levels.'

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