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Apprentices Show Keen Eye For Innovation

19 February 2015

Costain’s commitment to harnessing innovation requires everyone in the business to take a lead, and the latest intake of apprentices is no exception.

During a recent induction day, 24 of Costain’s latest apprentice recruits were asked to go back to their respective projects and devise an innovation that could be developed for the benefit of the Company and its customers. The apprentices then delivered their ideas to Caroline Towner, Costain’s Apprentice Manager, and Tim Embley, Costain’s Group Innovation and Knowledge Manager. The apprentices passed with flying colours.

“Everyone has a role to identify, develop and implement innovation. Apprentices play an important role in the Costain family, and in this task they hit the ground running,” said Tim.

The apprentices, many of whom only joined the Company last summer, were initially encouraged to work independently to research their ideas. They were then encouraged, in groups, to work with their colleagues and companies to challenge and develop the innovation.

Ranging in age from 16 to 25 years, the apprentices presented their innovations to Tim and Caroline via conference call, which allowed them to demonstrate another skill: communicating their ideas without having their audience with them in the room.

Ross Trickett, an apprentice Electrical Engineer working on the M1 Junction 29a SMART Motorways scheme, and Danielle Hopkins, an apprentice Civil Engineer working on the Western & Wales GWRM/VLE Electrification project, were two of the apprentices who took part in the task.

Danielle’s innovation created renewable energy by using Overhead Line Equipment (OLE) to harness the power from braking trains, which then transfers the energy back into the rail system to be reused. Danielle said she was attracted to the idea because, other than the initial installation and basic maintenance, the ability to generate a reusable energy supply could reduce overall costs.

“As an engineer, I feel a personal responsibility to ensure we do everything in our power to be as environmentally friendly as possible. Electrifying the lines is a huge step towards a greener rail service, and allowing trains to generate their own power supply is an extension of that,” said Danielle.

Ross also focussed on a subject that really interests him: health and safety. He delivered a number of highways innovations including exclusion zone markers fitted to varioguard fencing, which can move up to 600mm in the event of a collision with a vehicle. The markers indicate the safe distance an operative needs to be to avoid physical injury.

Ross also came up with a harness that can be attached to a gantry ladder which locks in the event of a fall, preventing serious injury; and an idea for rubber grip covers attached to steel gantry ladders, which can often become slippery to climb in wet and icy weather conditions.

“For me, the most important aspect of innovation is health and safety and how to avoid serious injury or worse. Despite being new to the highways sector, I’m very aware of the dangers that we face,” said Ross, who is continuing his research, talking to suppliers and using the experience and knowledge of his colleagues to establish whether his innovations could be taken further.

The quality and standard of the innovations really impressed Caroline and Tim, who commended the apprentices for identifying and delivering practical solutions.

“We were really impressed with the way everyone approached the task, particularly as many of the apprentices have only been with the Company a few months. This just goes to show how innovation permeates every area of the business,” said Caroline.

Tim added: “The apprentices really rose to the challenge. Some of their ideas are now being implemented by their teams, which shows how quickly Costain can embrace new ideas into its operation. The support for innovation is unprecedented in the business, clearly indicating that we are a high performing team using all our skills and capabilities to deliver our customers with market leading solutions.”




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