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Susan Hooper speaks at the 2014 GMB Congress

Below you can read the speech Susan gave as part of a panel session with British Gas’ Corporate Affairs Director, Christine McGourty, and Labour Shadow Minister, Tom Greatrex MP.

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Thank you to GMB and Gary for giving us this opportunity, and to Tom Greatrex for taking part.

British Gas has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the GMB and we welcome this opportunity to be at their Congress.

As our GMB colleagues know all too well, British Gas is not just a company that supplies homes with gas and electricity, pays tax, or delivers obligations.

Our contribution to the UK goes beyond this. British Gas employs 30,000 people across the country; we provide training and skills that enables our people to provide a quality service to our customers. British Gas is one of the largest suppliers of energy related services in the country.

Our people go into customers’ homes every day. That could be to help customers use less energy by installing insulation, or bringing a home into the 21st century with a smart meter, or simply making sure that their boiler is still working properly and safely.

In 2013 we made over 9m visits to our customers’ homes.

With this level of contact comes a huge level of responsibility. We have to make sure that our service is provided in a safe way, in a way that ensures that our customers have confidence in the service we provide. If we fail in this regard we will simply lose customers, or worse, put people in danger.

That’s why British Gas is so committed to investing in skills. Our people must be the best in the industry. People still trust the “man in the blue van.”

There are few actual points of face to face contact that customers have with us – so when they do we have to get it right. Our engineers are the vanguard and pride of the business. Their expertise and dedication in doing what is right for our customers is an inspiration.

In 2003 we set up the British Gas energy academy. Although our commitment to apprenticeships pre-dates this, we needed state of the art facilities to ensure that our people have the right skills for the right job.

Since we opened the Energy Academy, we now have 6 sites across the UK training our people. One each in Dartford, Thatcham, Leicester, Leeds, Glasgow (in Tom Greatrex’s constituency) and Tredegar in Wales. Together they have trained over 5,000 apprentices and have seen us invest millions.

Our Academy in Tredegar is particularly special. It represents a partnership between the devolved administration, the local authority and British Gas, and is the only Green Skills academy in the UK.

Through these academies we train people to become energy experts. Depending on which apprenticeship scheme they are part of, they may become a gas fitter or a smart meter installer. We also train people in other new technologies that enable homes to become green like new kinds of insulation, solar technologies and ground source heat pumps.

Our training also goes beyond just the practical skills. We need to make sure that our employees know how to engage with customers. We try to impart life skills through the inclusion of programmes like the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Our apprenticeships remain incredibly popular and are massively oversubscribed. Last year we had 60 applicants for every place.

We have excellent relations with our apprentices. Our apprentices also want to stay with British Gas. 95% of our engineers stay with the company 5 years after they have completed their training. Our apprentices are also the future leaders of our services business. We provide support and opportunities for a full career.

We recently surveyed our apprentices and found those doing British Gas apprenticeships think they compare well with higher education:

  • 92% say they’re better prepared for work, 95% would recommend it to their friends, and
  • 90% say they’re financially better off in the long run, than friends who went on to college or university
British Gas apprentices feel secure in their roles:
  • 83% say it gives them financial security, and
  • 94% say it gives them job security.
They also think it sets them up well for life:
  • with 94% saying the skills they’ve learnt will be useful in other jobs, and
  • 98% saying their apprenticeship has set them up for successful future careers.
Last year alone we invested over £12million in our academies. Businesses can only make these kinds of vital investments if they are profitable and operate in a stable environment. That’s what British Gas seeks in order make sure we can continue to play our part in investing in people's futures.

Our commitment sees us with 1,200 apprentices currently being trained. And we are looking to create even more. Each representing a £30,000 investment.

The GMB has been right behind is in training our apprentices and we continue to welcome their support.

The UK has started to grow again after a protracted economically challenging time. Youth unemployment is a problem that the UK needs to tackle. Employment across the UK is growing and British Gas will continue to play its part here in providing opportunities.

Of all people who began employment with British Gas last year, 30% were aged 16-25. Across our business British Gas employed 900 young people last year. This includes providing opportunities for school leavers, graduates, apprentices, creating positions in our call centres, in our engineer work force and in our management schemes.

Our people represent British Gas to our customers. We make sure that we provide them with all the skills they need to provide the best experience our business. We create good jobs, with prospects and a good salary.

It is only through being a successful British company that we can continue to do this.


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