Published: 12 Jul 2019

Dr Stephen Hughes, CQP FCQI, Head of Quality and Rick Ellis, CQP MCQI, Head of Profession for Quality at AWE describe an internal training programme that is being developed to improve the understanding of quality management principles within the organisation

Based in Berkshire, UK, AWE has been at the forefront of the UK’s nuclear deterrence programme for over 60 years and delivers innovative solutions in counter-terrorism and nuclear threat reduction. AWE plays a key role in the UK’s defence by providing and maintaining warheads for the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent.

Understanding and delivering quality is at the heart of driving performance, effectiveness, efficiency and transformation within the organisation.

AWE’s quality function is playing its part in that endeavour through deploying a strategy based on the quality temple (below). Each element of the strategy model has been addressed, and some significant business benefits have been achieved. For example, a new Management System and Process Framework were launched in 2017, simplifying and bringing greater clarity to a number of technically complex activities undertaken by our people. A new electronic non-conformance report process has been also been deployed, with enhanced analytical capabilities supporting problem-solving.

The quality temple strategic approach at AWE

What was next? With these and other process improvements helping to move the business forward, the Quality Leadership Team also recognised the need to put people in the organisation at the centre of the strategy. 

Our business, like many, has challenging demographics, and the Quality Leadership Team sought to ensure quality at AWE is seen to provide an attractive career path with interesting and challenging development opportunities. Our intention is to ensure talented employees seek to join and wish to stay in the quality function at AWE. We want all quality employees to be equipped to contribute to the Quality Strategy and to be actively engaged in continually improving the workplace.

Consequently, the Quality Leadership Team has targeted training and quality awareness as an important area to develop.

Developing structured training

In 2016, a decision was made to reinvigorate and strengthen the provision of quality training at AWE.

The nature of work at AWE led the business to conclude it would be best served by developing and delivering material internally, allowing us to tailor content to suit the requirements of the business.

The training material needed to be of a high standard, and AWE explored and subsequently recognised the benefits of partnering with CQI to promote industry best practice. The ability to obtain CQI certification for employees is seen as a major benefit, where employees can align their professional development and aspirations through a modular approach, while also meeting business needs.

The training material needed to be of a high standard, and AWE explored and subsequently recognised the benefits of partnering with CQI to promote industry best practice

A project team was set up to develop the structure and training material for modular courses. The training has been categorised into four tiers, which align with business needs and the requirements of the CQI.

  • Tier 1 – Introductory awareness e-based learning
  • Tier 2 – Fundamental quality knowledge delivered through e-based learning
  • Tier 3 – Foundation in quality courses delivered via one to two day classroom sessions
  • Tier 4 – Practitioner in quality courses delivered via classroom and project work.

The wide variety and scope of AWE’s activities and the differing requirements of each business area led us to conclude a single level of training would not support the business needs.

The lower level, Tier 1, acts as an introduction to various aspects of quality, delivered as e-based learning, providing an awareness of the basic quality activities. 

Level two, takes this training to a fundamental level. This is the level that specific areas of the business require their staff to achieve in order to fulfil their roles. It starts to give more depth and span to each subject, starting to introduce methodologies and basic quality tools. Again, this is delivered through e-learning, but pass criteria have been set with a multiple choice assessment undertaken at the end of the module.

The foundation course in quality, level three, is classroom-based and consists of seven modules. At this level, each module lasts for between one and two days.

Not all staff will complete all the modules. Some may only take the subjects that relate to their business requirements. Staff from outside the quality function will also complete some of the relevant modules and everyone in a quality role will be able to undertake the full suite of modules and complete the foundation course as part of their continuous professional development.

Benefits to the organisation

The training has been a successful initiative, which enables our people to better contribute and respond to business needs, now and in the future.

Working in partnership

Evidence of successful completion of modules at levels one and two is retained on AWE’s internal training system. Completion of modules of the level three foundation course, is recognised with a certificate of completion. Staff who undertake and pass all modules are issued with a certificate of completion endorsed by the CQI.

AWE became a corporate partner of the CQI in 2016 in support of our strategic drive to enhance quality. We are also proud to be an Approved Training Partner of the CQI, as it gives us external recognition of providing world-class quality training, to a consistent standard, by our in-house trainers.

About the authors: Dr Stephen Hughes, CQP FCQI, is Head of Quality at AWE and Rick Ellis, CQP MCQI, is Head of Profession for Quality, at AWE.