Learning through virtual engagement at Costain

By Future Talent Learning

Michael Bashford, Learning & Development Director at Costain shares his insights about working with Future Talent Learning.


When graduates and apprentices came over to my remit at the end of 2019, it was clear our graduate scheme offering was ready for a refresh. In discussions with Future Talent Learning, we were immediately drawn to the different type of experience we could offer our young, keen graduates through its Transformational Leadership Programme – a fully virtual experience that stood out for making the most of a digital platform.


We want our graduates to excel. And for us at Costain to see the value added by a new leadership programme, we’d be looking for our graduates to make vertical or lateral moves in the organisation, using what they’ve learnt and the development they’ve received to expand their personal brand through improved self-awareness and confidence to find their right place in our business. We’d also want to hear them talking enthusiastically about having amazing experiences and outstanding development. And I’m confident we’ve found that for them with Future Talent Learning – for many reasons.


The fact that we can fully fund this activity-led development through the apprenticeship levy in England is simply brilliant. But it’s just as important for us that we use the levy well and ensure a good fit; it’s not just about using it to fund anything related to apprenticeships. Future Talent Learning is definitely a great fit for us with an offering that sets it apart in the market.





Future Talent Learning is definitely a great fit for us with an offering that sets it apart in the market

Michael Bashford, Learning & Development Director, Costain



Learning through true virtual engagement 


One standout example of why Future Talent differs from other providers is their relationship with RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) which gives learners the chance to develop their presentation skills with the help of qualified, professional actors. It’s this relevant and engaging approach that appeals to younger audiences; the Transformational Leadership Programme couldn’t be more different from a typical dry business training offering!


Decision-making – one of many soft skills explored through the programme’s modules – has been highlighted by participants for its abstract learning approach. In one scenario, participants step into the role of a medic on the battlefield, putting their learning to the test in a high-pressured environment. Many other virtual simulations have truly captured their imagination, enhancing skills that they’re keen to bring back to the workplace.





Within our organisation, there’s an overwhelming sense of positivity around this new approach to graduate development. The Transformational Leadership Programme is viewed as something that’s adding value to the business, rather than simply being an initiative

Michael Bashford, Learning & Development Director, Costain



This programme is creating such new and engaging experiences. I continue to be impressed that our graduates have been able to develop virtually during this time of change brought by the pandemic, receiving what they’ve described as a fantastically structured programme and something they’re thoroughly enjoying being part of. This really has underpinned their experience – something that’s integral to our graduate trainee contract. With engaging content, personalised coaching and virtual simulations, Future Talent Learning is a one-stop shop for an outstanding graduate development experience.


Positive focus for off-the-job model 


Tackling the potential sticking point of the 20% off-the-job training model from the start proved very effective to encourage buy-in from managers. This time away from the day job provides the space to focus and develop the required skills, knowledge and behaviours to achieve the apprenticeship – but we know that barriers can go up at first mention.


The Future Talent Learning team gave us amazing support with this and helped facilitate pre-events to focus the attention on the positives of off-the-job, breaking down what it means and why aligning this time to work activities is central to success. We followed this up with internal documentation to avoid misinterpretation and help managers feel comfortable and confident with what to expect.


Outstanding content with added value 


The Transformational Leadership Programme content is vast, high quality and delivered in a way that has variety. We’re a small L&D team at Costain and this programme is giving us an opportunity to deliver amazing learning experiences while being confident that Future Talent Learning will take care of all the eligibility, processing, onboarding and communications in a slick and professional manner, just as we’d expect.


Within our organisation, there’s an overwhelming sense of positivity around this new approach to graduate development. The Transformational Leadership Programme is viewed as something that’s adding value to the business, rather than simply being an initiative. And that’s important to me. We’ve come from a place where our previous graduate programme provided a great experience by getting everyone in a room for workshops and bootcamps, but the cost was extortionate – think of the travel costs alone! – and the graduates only benefitted from six days of focused development across the year.


In the Future Talent offering, content is broken down into modules to focus energies on the skills and mindset needed for successful leadership and management. I’m confident it covers all the fundamentals of what we would want our graduates to know and understand.





The Transformational Leadership Programme couldn’t be more different from a typical dry business training offering!

Michael Bashford, Learning & Development Director, Costain


Opening up digital skills development


Future Talent Learning runs both open and closed programmes to provide flexibility around cohort size. An open cohort brings together learners from different organisations, making it easier for organisations whose numbers are below 60 to get on board. We were initially keen for a closed programme, but our numbers were fluctuating so we opted to join in with an open one. This has definitely been an advantage for our learners, providing them with additional networking opportunities and scope to share and learn from best practice more widely.


We have aspirations to run future closed groups with the programme more closely reflecting Costain language and behaviours. The communications materials, including simple and easy-to-follow guides for managers and employers, are absolutely first-rate – and when a quick turnaround has been needed, Future Talent are on it to help us meet our tight deadlines.


There’s broader applicability of this programme, too. We need agile people with the mindset and skills – particularly digital skills – to lead in times of change and disruption, and I can certainly see opportunities to work with Future Talent Learning moving forward, building on the relevant content to tailor it for a wider population within Costain.




For any L&D professional considering Future Talent Learning for leadership and skills development, I’d highly recommend they have a conversation, explain their needs and see how the programmes can fit. There are lots of organisations out there offering these leadership apprentice qualifications, and for me it’s all about ensuring exceptional content and flexibility of delivery. The content within Future Talent Learning’s Transformational Leadership Programme is vast compared with content I’ve seen from other providers pitching the same type of product – it’s important to do good research.


For Costain, this programme is adding value in a graduate space where virtual experience and relevant content are all important. The Transformational Leadership Programme is supporting us to provide a graduate experience that is outstanding, one I believe is enhancing our go-to-market position as an attractive, modern and dedicated graduate employer.


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