Northern Ireland Water was the first company in Northern Ireland to sign up to the UK Social Mobility pledge in 2019/20, signaling the intention that a person's background or circumstances shouldn’t affect their opportunities.
Northern Ireland Water (NIW) is a multi-award winning Government owned company, responsible for delivering 575 trillion litres of drinking water and treating 340 million litres of wastewater to 2 million people every day.
What NI Water Did
Northern Ireland Water was the first company in Northern Ireland to sign up to the UK Social Mobility pledge in 2019/20, signaling the intention that a person’s background or circumstances shouldn’t affect their opportunities.
Education teams from the company visit 30,000 key stage 1, 2 and 3 pupils each year, particularly targeting schools in socially deprived areas.
A dedicated apprentice coordinator role was established to oversee Schools Outreach and University engagement, and to be responsible for the experience of apprentices through their four-year journey with NI Water.
46 non-degree pathways were offered across a range of disciplines, from engineering to cyber-security, attracting almost 1000 applications.
A social clause was included in all service contracts worth over £500,000 p.a., requiring contractors to undertake a variety of socially beneficial initiatives.
NIW’s female CEO used her platform to attract more diverse candidates to company roles, in particular females.
The Senior Leadership Team took part in diversity campaigns, made diversity and inclusion a standing quarterly agenda item, and recognised employees who helped drive diversity and inclusion.
Flexible working policies, sick pay, hobby buddy networks, and an award-winning health and wellbeing programme were all offered to staff.
NIW is focused on developing employees at all stages, in areas such as communication, team-working and emotional intelligence.
The organisation has signed up to the Levelling Up goals and created an Action Plan to match its activity against the 12 Leveling Up goals.
It has set and reviews targets for all employability initiatives annually, often benchmarking with other organisations. These targets are set in relation to attraction rather than recruitment, and focus on visibility of females in marketing and advertising (as well as senior positions).
NIW provide internal updates on activity to its executive committee to ensure accountability and receives independent Levelling Up impact measurement reports to assess development.
Outcomes and Benefits
- Strategic partnerships with four regional colleges helped fill entry level roles in areas of social deprivation for recent Higher-Level Apprenticeship campaigns
- Almost half (48%) of applicants and 33% of those hired for the 2021 HLA programme were female
- Personal development programmes resulted in 82% of promotions being internal. Likewise, the average tenure at NIW is now 17 years and 10 months, and turnover rates are at just 4%
- 100% of respondents in the NIW Apprentice Experience Survey said they felt comfortable to be themselves at work; 92% agreed that their opinion counted and they felt valued
- Social clauses in service contracts have contributed to 455 weeks paid employment for new entry trainees; 27 weeks work experience for people disadvantaged in the labour market; and the inclusion of 3 social enterprises within the NIW supply chain, amongst other benefits
- NIW have been able to share Health and Wellbeing best practice as business continuity forums and supplier events
- Health and Wellbeing Initiatives have been extended to family and friends, including after school clubs and fitness classes
What the Judges said…
“Northern Ireland Water demonstrated an inclusive approach to employability activities in Northern Ireland with its inspirational approach to community outreach and school engagement. It has a clear strategy in place to overcome the specific challenges in the sector, and the passion and commitment for its all-age apprenticeships is a model that could be replicated across other organisations and sectors.”