JBA Consulting was founded by four people, including Jeremy Ben, who shared an amount of dissatisfaction with the water and environmental sector, the business will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in September this year and is now 280 people strong.
It provides engineers, environmental consultants, designers and scientists, committed to improving the natural and built environment and creating sustainable places to live and work.
Its head office is based at Broughton Hall with a turnover of £18 million, and it also has a number of subsidiaries and offices stretching from Edinburgh to Exeter, and even Cambodia.
These include JBA Risk Management (a specialist company for assessing and managing risk), JBA Energy (a renewable energy portfolio), Mekong Modelling Associates (based in the ASEAN region, offering technical expertise in all areas of rivers and water management), and JBA Bentley (a joint venture with civil engineering contractor JN Bentley working on drainage and flood risk management sector). It also has a strong R&D department.
JBA Consulting took on a new apprentice at the Broughton Hall base in January.
Andrew Gubbin, JBA Consultancy director for Skipton, said: “We were aware of the apprenticeship scheme and were looking to appoint a new member of staff. We found Craven College ran a scheme with a pretty good success rate, so we approached them.
“They set us up with an interview for two people, and we took one of them on. I have to say Craven College made it very easy for us.
“The person we took on, Jonathan, had been to university for a term but felt he was paying a lot of money in fees, when he could just as easily go via an industry route and also gain experience at the same time.
“His apprenticeship is an administrative one, but actually he’s working in technical teams and gaining valuable skills and insight into what we’re doing.
“He’s been working on data management – things like GIS (geographic information system) data from clients surveys which needs to be managed, collated, then manipulated into the right format.
“His first job has been assisting a team compiling a national survey using our GISmapp application, a geography information app for iPads and iPhones, and he’s doing very well.”
Mr Gubbin added: “You can get someone straight from university with a first who’s brilliant and knows it all – or so they think – but it’s one thing having all the theory, it’s another when it comes to using it in a practical sense.
“But with someone like Jonathan, we can develop a more rounded employee – help them gain their qualifications but also develop the skills we actually need. And because he hasn’t got a speciality background, we can provide him with opportunities across a range of different teams.”
One of the most attractive parts of the apprenticeship scheme is the reduced salary, but Mr Gubbin said it was a secondary consideration as JBA is more interested in developing skilled staff. He said: “There’s certainly a financial benefit on getting someone in on a junior level, but it’s not about the reduced labour costs as we would have recruited into the role on one level or another anyway.
“And I certainly don’t think Jonathan would feel he’s being used as an office gopher. One of the reasons we didn’t decide to take on a work placement for example is they’d only be with us for a few weeks and it be difficult and time consuming to manage. There’s the danger they’d end up doing things which weren’t particularly interesting or useful for them.
“With an apprentice, we get an enthusiastic individual who we can mould to fit in to our existing business. It’s a tremendous opportunity for him, but it does also provide us with an additional resource.
“If you can get the right person then they can bring something new ideas as well. That fits in to our R&D stuff.”
Perhaps one of the reasons JBA has had success with the apprenticeship scheme is its interest in developing staff. JBA Consulting is employee-owned, with a number of employee shareholders.
It also offers £1,200 per year and five days assigned to each individual for training and achieving qualifications once they’ve been at the company for six months and have passed their probation period.
It also runs the JBA Trust, a not-for-profit organisation which improves the research and education for people in the sector, specifically by funding higher qualifications such as MAs and Phds.