Ridgeons bucks the trend in Hitchin

Published:  09 December, 2014

In an industry generally perceived as male dominated, Ridgeons’ Hitchin branch manager Gwen Bergius is proud to be bucking the trend.

Identified for the role while undertaking Ridgeons' own Graduate Training Programme, Ms Bergius took over management of the branch in August and has been enjoying the challenges of running a branch in a new location since.

The Graduate Training Programme was launched in May 2013 to tackle skill shortages, while also securing succession planning. The aim behind the initiative was to identify key individuals for manager roles across the Group, and then equip them with the skills, training and experiences they needed to become future leaders.

Traditionally, the Group has favoured the trainee recruitment route. However with candidates taking seven years to reach branch manager status, the Graduate Programme was introduced to fast-track the process and enable candidates to reach this level in half the time.

To be accepted onto the programme graduates require at least a 2:1 degree; candidates then enter a two-stage interview process, followed by a five-week induction, which includes an introduction to Ridgeons with presentations across the Group's key functions, followed by forklift, saw bench and IT-system training.

At the end of the induction, candidates are located within a specific branch for six months where they become a fully fledged member of the team, working across the different functions in order to develop their product knowledge, interface with customers and complete a pre-defined assignment.

Ms Bergius' interest in the Graduate Programme was piqued when she saw the opportunity on a website.

"Having just moved to the area, I was looking for a regionally based position and when I came across the opportunity at Ridgeons I jumped at the chance,” she explained. “I researched the Group and was really impressed with their ethos and values, especially the investment they make in their employees. My background is in Archaeology and I spent time as a call centre manager, so I was looking for a role that was going to challenge me within a new industry, outside of academia, in order to develop and broaden my skills set.

"The training I received was invaluable and has put me in good stead for my role as branch manager at Hitchin. It's been a steep learning curve, but I wouldn't change it; it's great as no two days are the same. Being given the opportunity to develop a new team and expand the Ridgeons offering into a new area is exciting and I have had lots of support from my colleagues across the Group.

"I would highly recommend the training programme. It's very flexible and, unlike other schemes, is geared to you as an individual. Ridgeons is a very friendly and supportive place to work, offering a host of opportunities."

She added: "As a branch, we have some interesting challenges in terms of attracting new business and raising awareness of the Ridgeons name within the area. The feedback we have received so far from customers has been incredibly positive and they welcome our different approach, which they feel makes a refreshing change. Opening at 7am has also proved popular and convenient with our customers."

The branch is located at 1 Knowl Piece, Wilbury Way, Hitchin, SG4 0TY and is open between 7am - 5pm Monday to Friday, and 8am - 12pm on Saturdays.

Ms Bergius was recently announced as Trainee of the Year at the Builders’ Merchants Awards for Excellence 2014.

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