Discover the September issue of Aptus Connections: Great Heck project, finance insights from Sue Wray, and mental health focus. Elevate your project with Aptus.
APTUS CONNECTIONS ISSUE 14 // SEPTEMBER 2023
Great Heck! Case study snapshot. 09
06 ESG and Green Campaign
08 Supplier Focus: TIS
12 Mental Health Moment
Aptus MULTI-UTILITIES MASTERED
Welcome Viewpoint Company Round Up ESG and Green Campaign What I’ve Learnt Supplier Focus - Technical Innovation Servis Project Spotlight Career Progression Five Years of Growth in the Midlands Mental Health Moment CONTENTS Welcome... to the latest edition of Connections. I’m hoping that by the time you read this, we’ll have seen a bit more of the sunshine! In this edition, we highlight one of our recent projects which involved collaboration with numerous stakeholders and partners. The electric and gas installation project at Great Heck near Leeds, was one of our most ambitious to date and is due for completion at the end of September. It takes a team with varying skills, carrying out a huge range of roles, to keep a business like Aptus operating. On page 7 we speak to our finance manager, Sue Wray, about the ins and outs of her job, and what makes her tick outside the office. And finally, the wellbeing and mental health of all our people is our top priority. In this issue’s mental health moment, we speak to some of our mental health first aiders about the vital role they play in our business. As always, thank you for your continued support. Please do get in touch with any suggestions for future editions of Connections.
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Best wishes Lisa Kerford Managing Director
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VIEWP INT In this edition, our business development director, Dan Owen, shares his thoughts on how the move towards electric heating is impacting our customers.
NEW BUILDS Because Aptus handles new build projects, we can design and install from a blank canvas. Existing properties, however, can present a completely different scenario in terms of retro-fitting, and time will tell what the next steps will be with that. With changing guidelines and no clear governance to work to, housebuilders need to carefully manage timescales versus requirements. For example, when a piece of land is being appraised for bidding, the infrastructure costs are now more relevant than ever due to the dwindling capacity in the grid. It is essential that housebuilders plan ahead and determine the correct method of heating, such as heat pumps or community heating, so that the correct load and budgets can be set from the start. Some developers are opting for hybrid infrastructure, which is where plots being built pre-2025 will have a percentage of the site gas heated and the remainder heated via electric. This is where we can find savings and support developers. We aim to continue being the partner of choice for housebuilders. PLANNING AHEAD Customers are increasingly appointing Aptus to carry out feasibility studies, including reviews to determine potential abnormal costs or inflated infrastructure costs. Sharing our expertise is something we have always done, however, right now, this support will be even more invaluable to our customers. Whether the ambitious targets are achievable is yet to become apparent, but what is without doubt, is that electrified heating will be the norm in the not-too-distant future. Proactive planning and engaging as early as possible is vital in giving clarity on the impact of new systems.
There has been increasing coverage in the media about electrifying heating systems, with the government announcing plans to ban sales of new boilers from 2025 for new properties. With heating homes accounting for almost 16 per cent of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions, it’s good to see the move towards electrified heating gaining momentum. However, the transition is challenging for all involved, and there is still much work to be done if we are to meet targets; whilst the technology exists, the challenge comes in mobilising it quickly enough. FACTORS TO BE ADDRESSED In order to move completely away from a reliance on fossil fuels, there are a range of factors that need to be addressed. This ranges from network capacity to developers adapting to the changes and costs involved in the transition. The change has a huge impact on companies like Aptus who offer support from the start, often long before land acquisition; everyone in the chain must be adaptable. INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT The whole infrastructure must be developed if we are to meet government targets, and this means significant expansion and upgrade to the current electricity grid such is the leap in load requirements. Network operators will need to invest heavily in developing and modernising infrastructure to accommodate the increased demand, but this comes at a cost and often a delay — both of which can impact developers and providers. We are seeing more and more developments requiring reinforcements or connection to the grid much further away from the development itself. This clearly creates a commercial challenge too.
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Aptus group raise over £4,000 in charity trek
A huge well done to our colleagues who have completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge in under 12 hours, helping to raise over £4,000 for North West charity, Derian House Children’s Hospice. The much-anticipated event took place on Sunday 2nd July in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. After months of training and preparation, 14 colleagues and their family and friends embarked on the 25-mile hike across the three peaks of Whernside, Ingleborough, and Pen-y-Ghent. During the day our intrepid hikers had to contend with extreme weather conditions, low cloud, poor visibility, and challenging terrain. Upon completing the mammoth trek, the group enjoyed a pub meal courtesy of Aptus as a thank you for their efforts in undertaking the challenge and raising sponsorship. The original target was £500 but the group smashed this raising £2,150 , which Aptus has fund matched taking the total to £4,300 .
The money will go towards supporting the vital work carried out by Derian House, who provide 24/7 respite and end of life care and support services for more than 400 poorly children and their families each year. Speaking about the challenge, organiser and technical manager at Aptus, Adrian Cunningham said: We all completed it in under the 12-hour mark and had all weather conditions to contend with! It was a fabulous day and great to actually get chatting to everyone else in a non-work environment. The meal at the end was a great way to all meet up and laugh about the day. It was very hard and tiring and the last miles just lasted forever! It was all worthwhile to help raise money for an incredible charity whose work has such a positive impact on the lives of the children and families they support. Thank you to everyone who took part and to all those who sponsored us or helped along the way.
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COMPANY ROUND-UP Health & Safety Recognition Congratulations to project delivery manager John Goulding on winning the annual Aptus Health and Safety Award in recognition of his continued efforts and positive attitude towards health and safety. John is in charge of project delivery for our Lancashire region, where he oversees an extensive portfolio of sites including residential, commercial, and industrial developments. In this role he has responsibility for the health and safety of the multi-utility operatives and subcontractors in his area. Managing director Lisa Kerford presented John with his award at Aptus House head office in July, where he was congratulated by his colleagues.
World Wellbeing Week In June we marked World Wellbeing Week by highlighting the free help and resources we offer which can support our colleagues to look after their health. Mental wellbeing and physical health are interlinked, and we place a strong focus on supporting mental health, but it’s also important for us to raise awareness around how to promote a healthy lifestyle. Last year we launched Aptus Wellbeing Week to support this, and had fresh fruit delivered to all our offices and depots as well as offering ‘Know Your Numbers’ clinics, which we were pleased to provide again this year. We encourage people to find out what benefits their employer offers. Here are some more details about ours: Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) Provides access to a free and confidential helpline, counselling services, and free support, advice and other resources via our partner healthcare provider, Health Assured. ‘Know Your Numbers’ clinics These 15-minute health checks test blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, which can all be contributing factors in heart disease. Voluntary assessments are available to all colleagues during drop-in sessions at our regional offices. Free Digital GP This is an online/telephone GP service via MetLife UK which is offered to colleagues and their families. The service is accessible 24/7, 365 days a year and offers consultations via video call or over the telephone. Partnerships with health clubs These offer discounts on memberships with partner gyms and health clubs including David Lloyd Leisure, Nuffield Health, and more. Mental Health Support We have 30+ colleagues trained as Mental Health First Aiders through MHFA England who are there to help colleagues across the business. Donate-a-Day Helping others is well known for its positive effects on wellbeing and we encourage employees to make use of their day’s paid leave to get out and do some good in the community.
HSQE manager Delicia Maxwell said:
“John’s sites and team audits are always to a high standard. John and his teams are continuously receiving excellent feedback and compliments from internal and external parties. “He always supports and promotes site safety and follows guidance from the health and safety team, he continually risk assesses his jobs to ensure his teams are safe and all necessary controls are in place. “John is a fantastic ambassador for the Aptus health and safety award.” The Health and Safety Awards play an important part in our health and safety strategy by encouraging colleagues to contribute to health and safety targets, find innovative solutions, and drive standards. This supports our strong health and safety record, for which we are proud to have earned four back-to-back RoSPA gold awards — an achievement that would not be possible without the ongoing commitment of the whole team.
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We’re delighted to announce that following a review of our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance, we have achieved a score of 62% and been recognised as ‘ESG Excellent’. This score places us among the top percentile of all companies rated by Sustainable Advantage and shows significant improvement on our score of 44% achieved last year. ESG & GREEN CAMPAIGN
Managing director Lisa Kerford said:
The ESG Excellent accreditation reflects the hard work we have put into achieving the targets set out in last year’s first strategic review, we are especially pleased to have surpassed our targets in Governance and ESG Integration. As one of only 6% of companies assessed by Sustainable Advantage to achieve this standard, this demonstrates our commitment to enhancing our sustainability through environmentally considerate practices and in ensuring the health, safety, and ongoing professional development of our workforce. The report’s recommendations will further advise the implementation of ESG processes, supporting Aptus to deliver best practice for all stakeholders in the remainder of 2023 and beyond. Sustainable Advantage have further been appointed to carry out a Net Zero analysis of the business to devise a strategy which will support us in meeting our carbon reduction goals by 2030, and we look forward to learning more from this report.
Keep an eye on our website for the full ESG report, due to be published soon at: https://aptusutilities.co.uk/our-story/corporate-responsibility
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WHAT I’VE LEARNT Through Connections we like to shine a spotlight on our fantastic team and find out what makes them tick. In this issue, we catch up with finance manager Sue Wray , who has just celebrated her ten year anniversary at the company.
process. This split has changed however, meaning we now see a smaller payment from the client when a job commences and a larger payment from the asset company when the project completes. This means we need to monitor cashflow in a different way to ensure we maintain our seamless service to clients. Q: Has digitisation impacted your work and brought about any challenges? A: I have always used computers throughout my career, so from that perspective it has been interesting to see software developing over time. We have actually just had a new programme installed that uploads invoices and matches them to the order as well as saving each individual invoice to the record. While it can be challenging to learn new systems, it is rewarding to implement them successfully for the benefit of the company. Q: What advice would you give to anyone starting out in the utilities sector? A: Learn as much about your job as possible and make sure you keep trying to learn new skills. It’s also important to appreciate and understand how your work can affect others, both inside and outside the business. Q: And finally, what do you enjoy doing outside of work? A: I play a lot of golf at Worsley Golf Club and have been the Ladies Secretary for two years. One of my biggest golfing highlights was getting a hole in one during a competition. I also enjoy trips to Nefyn in North Wales to visit friends, and to Lymington on the south coast to visit my family.
Q: What did you do prior to joining Aptus? A: Before I joined Aptus, I worked for a private housing company as the group finance manager. I have always worked in finance and construction, so making the move to Aptus seemed like the ideal step in my career. Q: Tell us about your role at Aptus? A: I’m in charge of the finance team so it’s all about numbers for me! My responsibilities include producing the month-end accounts and managing the banking and VAT returns. It’s up to our team to ensure that all transactions are recorded accurately, so attention to detail is paramount. Q: Have you noticed any recurring financial trends in recent years with regards to projects and cashflow? A: Yes, and it’s quite a significant change. We used to receive the majority of contract payments from clients at the beginning of a project, with a smaller proportion being sent over by the asset company towards the end of the contract
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Through Connections we regularly shine a spotlight on some of our suppliers.
Q: What are the main challenges you help your clients overcome? A: We regularly assist in projects other businesses have struggled to complete and use our invaluable input to resolve problems in an efficient and timely manner. We also provide our clients with quality training that enables them to complete projects to the highest standards whilst also upholding safe working practices. Q: What are the most prominent issues facing your industry currently? A: The most prominent issue is the low uptake of new personnel joining the industry. With the works that are due to be ongoing in the future we believe this may be an issue, not directly for ourselves but in general. Q: What are the company’s aims and objectives for the next five years? A: In the next five years we would like to expand further, help more of our existing clients and generate new ones. We also want to continue to fill the voids left in the industry that contractors find hard to fulfil, and demonstrate how we can help them improve the quality of their work and fulfil requirements relating to compliance. To find out more about TIS, check out: www.technicalinnovationservis.com
In this issue we chat with Steve Gordon, director at Technical Innovation Servis (TIS), who tells us more about the services they provide for Aptus, the challenges they help their clients overcome, and their aims and objectives for the next five years. Q: Tell us about Technical Innovation Servis and what you do? A: TIS is a family run business based in Wigan. We’ve been trading for over ten years and have grown substantially since commencing trading from our home office. We started out with a focus on being a leading utilities training provider and soon became the first company to gain national accreditation for our Hydrostatic Pressure testing course via the Energy and Utility Skills Register (EUSR). After expanding our training portfolio to 15+ EUSR courses, we decided to add further strings to our bow with Joint testing analysis, equipment hire and sales, and the subsequent creation of our sister business last year - Technical Innovation Site Services - which provides all aspects of commissioning works. Q: What services do you provide for Aptus? A: Presently we provide Aptus with a range of training services that are in line with the latest industry updates and practices. We also provide site commissioning services which incorporate pressure testing, chlorination, and sampling.
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GREAT HECK In this edition, we’re highlighting a recent project our team in Yorkshire has worked on. Location Great Heck, near Leeds Project Outline Block paving and concrete block manufacturer, Thomas Armstrong (Concrete Blocks) Ltd , commissioned Aptus to manage and coordinate the installation of electric and gas mains to their factory. Requirements The work required 4km of 250mm medium pressure gas main and 6km of 11kV 300mm triplex HV cables, both coming in opposite directions to the site. Our team subcontracted the gas work to Mc & C Utilities based in Wakefield and the electric work to Catlows Engineering based in Doncaster.
Project Challenges Throughout the project, there were a number of challenges for our team to overcome: 11 Section 50 notices (licences needed in order to lay new or maintain existing apparatus in the public highway) had to be raised with two local authorities. Three road closures had to be organised requiring traffic management. The gas route involved excavation under a railway bridge, which meant liaising with Network Rail to secure permission and supervision. Permission had to be secured from The Historical Railways Estate, as a part of the install required excavation alongside an abandoned railway. The Knottingley and Goole Canal on Heck Lane in Great Heck had to be crossed as part of the electric route. A report had to be compiled for the Canal & River Trust to ensure they were happy with the work being carried out near their asset. Result The project commenced in March, with gas going live in June. Electric is on schedule for connection in September. Robert Maxwell, Yorkshire area manager, said:
This was a significant and complex project which required extensive collaboration with our partners to coordinate all elements and ensure everything ran on schedule. Our teams had to be agile, adapting to changes in circumstance and challenges that arose along the way.
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Investing in future talent
CAREER PROGRESSION AT APTUS: WE CATCH UP WITH OUR TRAINEES
Niamh: I’m working on designs for all three utilities and have authorisation to sign off water designs. At this stage all our work is still checked by the qualified engineers before being sent for approval by the relevant incumbents. Tell us about some of the challenges. Alfie: The processes can be lengthy and involved with frequent redesigns and alterations made according to developers’ changing requirements, for example where more plots have been added or removed. Niamh: There’s a lot of responsibility in this role and working on three designs is more challenging. Every site is different so no two designs will be the same. Some designs can date back years so you have to carry out a detailed investigation of the site and previous revisions to establish where the job is up to so you don’t miss any information. What do you enjoy about the role? Alfie: I work on designs for residential, commercial, and industrial sites nationwide, and learning about the regional variations between water companies and how they operate has been interesting. I’m looking forward to moving into the next phase working on water design approvals, which involves sending formal designs to the different incumbents, for their approval for construction. Niamh: I enjoy working with my fellow trainees - we help each other out! I also find the supervision and support from the wider design team valuable. I want to learn as much information as I can to help me work to the best of my abilities. I’m particularly looking forward to visiting
At Aptus we’ve earned an award- winning reputation for our commitment to training and developing our workforce. In 2022, we offered colleagues the chance to apply for one of four roles as a multi-utility trainee design engineer. The training focuses on their development and mentoring in water, electric, and gas design, and includes all the skills and competencies necessary for them to become a fully qualified multi-utility design engineer. Once the training period has been completed, they will be able to manage multiple design projects. Our invitation for applications generated lots of interest, enabling us to fill all positions internally, and by autumn our colleagues had started training. We caught up with trainees Alfie Evans and Niamh Ritchie . Why did you apply for the role? Alfie: I was working as a contracts coordinator at head office and my job brought me regularly into contact with the design team, so I had a bit of an insight into what they do on a daily basis. I could see myself in the role and it offered a great route for career progression within the company – it was too good an opportunity to miss so I applied! Niamh: I already had an engineering qualification and some experience in computer-aided design (CAD) when I joined Aptus in 2019 as a CAD trainee. When the multi-utility role came up, the training felt like it would be a good fit and would allow me to develop my skills and broaden my career options. What does your training involve? Alfie: I initially spent three months working in computer-aided design (CAD). This helped me learn more about the process and gain a fundamental understanding of what goes into producing designs. Moving onto water tenders, I spent a period of several months learning about the network design requirements and producing outline designs which support the estimation and tendering team in producing quotes.
site more often and seeing how designs are put into action, as it will be beneficial to see the process from start to finish.
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CELEBRATING FIVE YEARS OF GROWTH IN THE MIDLANDS
In the last edition of Connections we celebrated Aptus turning 13, and in this issue we’re delighted to share news of another birthday. Our Midlands office and depot, which is located in Burntwood, turned five in July and has gone from strength to strength since opening in the summer of 2018. Overseeing operations there is Midlands general manager Jon Patrick, who joined Aptus five years ago with just one team and one project manager working for him. Thanks to continued growth however, the team at Burntwood is now 40 strong, with the 8,787 sq ft unit and yard space allowing Aptus to successfully service the entire region. Here we take a closer look at some of the most impressive facts and figures from our Midlands team over the past five years…
Worked with over 80 different clients Over 250 contracts secured at over £50 million in value Over 15,000 plots secured Secured 87 lighting contracts Clients include Taylor Wimpey, David Wilson Homes and Bellway
We caught up with Jon Patrick, a key figure behind the success at Burntwood, to get his thoughts on the last five years and his plans for the future.
It’s great to reach this milestone with the site having done so well since its inception. When you reflect on the figures - such as 250 contracts secured and a value of £50 million generated — I don’t think I could have envisaged it back in 2018. It’s not a surprise though when you see the fantastic team we have here. From our admin team, apprentices and estimators to our multi utility operatives and project managers, their collective commitment, dedication, and hard work has been key in Burntwood’s growth. We’re all looking forward to building on the strong foundations we’ve laid down and can’t wait to see what the next five years bring.
APTUS CONNECTIONS // ISSUE 14
MENTAL HEALTH MOMENT
WHY I BECAME A MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AIDER Jack Berry, HSQE advisor There are posters around the workplace with photos of all the mental health first aiders, and I think this provides reassurance if someone is struggling. I’ve had third hand experience of someone affected by mental health issues who lost their life to suicide.
Construction has made clear strides in raising awareness around mental health, yet the rising number of suicides is an alarm call that more still needs to be done. According to data from the Office for National Statistics, workers in construction in England and Wales are now nearly four times more likely to take their own lives than in other sectors. As a male-dominated industry, research shows there remains a strong reluctance to talk about mental health problems which poses a major challenge in an industry employing over 1.1 million men — around 85% of the total workforce , according to data from The Association for Project Safety (APS). High profile campaigns like the Lighthouse Club and Mates In Mind’s ‘Make It Visible’ initiative are among those aiming to promote culture change in an effort to reduce stigma, break down barriers, and increase awareness of support services. World Suicide Prevention Day on 10th September is an opportunity to start a conversation on mental health and it is essential that we all play our part in looking out for each other and encouraging others to speak up. As company supporters of The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity, we encourage people to access their resources which are available to construction workers and their families. They offer a free, confidential helpline: 0345 605 195 . Visit www.lighthouseclub.org for more information.
This was after I had done the training and there were no signs, so it has made me think even more about what people might be going through, the private issues they may be dealing with, and to be more mindful of this in my everyday interactions. Mental health issues are rising among young people due to the impact of social media and mobile phones being
used by younger age groups, and MHFA training will have an increasingly valuable role to play in the future. Georgia Moss, Street lighting business administration apprentice It’s becoming increasingly significant, especially within the workplace, to understand our mental health as it plays a huge factor in our everyday lives. From the training, I have gained a deepened understanding of possible signs someone may be struggling with their mental health. This is incredibly beneficial to know, as not everyone is comfortable talking about their problems, so if there is the opportunity to help another in need, I would love to help in any way I can.
At Aptus we have more than thirty Mental Health First Aiders, who are there to help our colleagues across all areas of the business. Here, five of our trainers share more about their roles.
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Dan Jones, North west jointing supervisor
From speaking to other people, I’ve found that most of us will be connected to somebody who has experienced issues around mental health, whether that’s on a personal level or a family member or a friend. When I joined Aptus I was working on site as a jointer and thought it might be useful for the lads to have someone that they could chat to, particularly
Wendy Little, Penrith depot manager Working in a male-dominated workforce, I thought it would be a good idea to have a better understanding of mental health as men especially are not the best at opening up to people.
working in a male led industry, and that the Mental Health First Aid
training would help. Since being promoted to supervisor I’m office based but when I visit our stores at Leyland, I will always ask how people are – they know I’m MHFA trained so I’m a point of contact they can count on, if needed. Dave Seekings, Stores operative, Leyland Through the knowledge I’ve gained I’ve been able to help a couple of colleagues who approached me after seeing me listed as one of the company’s first aiders. In each instance, we talked through the issues they were facing and discussed some coping strategies. The training helped me to feel more confident in offering support. I also think the training helps you to identify body language that can indicate when there may be a problem. In my role I can see up to 50-60 colleagues a day, from drivers to operatives and others, and I like to check in and see if they are okay. It’s all about building those relationships and letting people know you are there if they need a bit of extra support.
I’d say it’s given me a better understanding of how to support people and look for signs rather than be judgemental. I’ve not really had to apply these skills directly, as far as I’m aware, but I am a good
listener and often lads I’ve not seen in a while say I’ve cheered them up just by listening.
I think the more MHFAs there are in a company the better as you just never know what someone is going through or thinking, and you may help someone more than you think.
IF SOMEONE IS IN CRISIS SEEK IMMEDIATE HELP – CALL 999 OR THE SAMARITANS ON 116 123
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APTUS HEAD OFFICE & UK OPERATIONAL DEPOTS
CUMBRIA & SCOTLAND Ullswater House North Lakes Business Park Penrith CA11 0JG
NORTH EAST Unit 16a Follingsby Park Gateshead Tyne and Wear NE10 8YG
NORTH WEST Unit G3 Leyland Business Park Centurion Way Leyland PR25 3GR NORTH WEST (Head Office) Aptus House Units 19-20 Barrs Fold Road Wingates Industrial Estate Bolton BL5 3XP
YORKSHIRE Mildred Sylvester Way Normanton Wakefield WF6 1TA
MIDLANDS Unit 11 Smiths Close Zone 3 Burntwood Business Park Staffordshire WS7 3FT
Aptus MULTI-UTILITIES MASTERED
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