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Training to succeed

Mel Wileman, Global Training Manager at Ocado Technology, explains our commitment to training our operations engineers, and a vision of opportunity for everyone.

Ocado Technology’s operations teams are growing. It’s an expansion locked to the increase in new Customer Fulfilment Centres (CFCs) around the world. We opened more of these cutting edge, highly automated warehouses last year than ever before, and we plan to equip and open even more this year and going forward, in the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, France, Sweden, Spain, Poland, and more. This means we need more engineers than ever; engineers up to the challenge of installing and maintaining those facilities. They must deal with the latest in warehouse control systems and mechatronics, stepping up to keep our operations running at peak performance. We need engineers that are not only equipped for today, but for whatever is around the corner. 

Our training must meet both our current needs, and anticipate future trends. Our programmes must enable and encourage amazing engineers to grow with the business. Internationally, our company-wide training platform and incoming Learning Management Systems make excellence available to all. In the UK, specifically, we already have a successful yearly graduate intake and are currently working on a new engineering-specific apprenticeship scheme.

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“We need engineers that are not only equipped for today, but for whatever is around the corner.”

This is not simply about technology and product-specific learning either. We recognise that everybody's personal roadmap is different, so our Step-Up programme is designed to move people up the ladder in whatever direction suits them and the business best. They might be looking at developing as a manager, or they might have ambitions to expand their expertise across multiple disciplines or take on wider responsibilities. It would be great, for example, if some of our graduates were to develop as engineers, but then take on the challenge of management. On the other hand, they might prefer to expand their skill set, build up hands-on operations experience, and move into the controls space. The point is that whatever your ambitions, we will have a pathway and the support in place for the right candidates.

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The best foundations

It's true that a lot of our engineering training is mandatory technical and safety learning. This is generally defined by legal and compliance requirements of a site, by risk assessment at a site, and by technical need.

Of course, as an international business we comply with all domestic laws and we are diligent in making sure our engineers are safe. This means that any training mandated by risk assessments has to be properly delivered by expert trainers before an employee can be hands-on at a CFC.

After that, there is training that might be considered helpful, rather than necessary. For those who are managing people, for example, or moving to a management position, it makes sense to take a management training course that has been adapted around the missions of the business. We see this kind of thing as an opportunity for both the business, and the employee, which is exactly how it should be. It's in the interests of the business for our teams and individual employees to fulfil their potential. 

The Learning Zone

At Ocado Technology we ar, in the process of formalising our mentoring schemes. We are in it together, and that translates to fantastic, welcoming teams that always offer help and support wherever needed. We have an infrastructure and a culture that absolutely levels the communication space, giving unimpeded access to whoever can help. In that sense, mentoring has been one of our hidden gems for a long time; everybody is doing it, but nobody is shouting about it. One of our aims this year is to put formal support in place for the mentors as well as their charges and we are currently investing in platforms to make that happen.

“...Mentoring has been one of our hidden gems for a long time; everybody is doing it, but nobody is shouting about it.

In the UK, since 2016 there has been a levy charged on larger businesses that goes straight into a training fund to be used by those businesses exclusively for training and apprenticeship schemes. At Ocado we are already offering level 3 apprenticeships in Cyber Security, HR Support and Business Administration. New Level 6 apprenticeship applications will be opening in September. In engineering we are currently formulating apprenticeship schemes at both levels, enabling us to nurture talent in-house and offer even more growth options for our employees.

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For the future, we have even bigger plans; there are many opportunities to offer enhanced training operations engineers. We are already investing in new learning platforms that will bring AR and VR-assisted learning opportunities, as well as 'gamification' in training - using game mechanics to encourage more active engagement. These kinds of opportunities, along with the mentoring programmes, successful graduate and apprenticeship schemes, personalised learning pathways, and more, all contribute to a rounded training approach. It means that every Ocado engineer, wherever they are in the world, can be certain of challenge, opportunity, and future-proofing.

Change your world with us

Many of our team members develop their expertise and careers through our individual training and development pathways. Learn more about Ocado Technology’s career development, culture, and benefits here.

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