Our focus during the year has been on delivering against four strategic aims as follows:
Attract the best and brightest talent
Our people, our clients and partners and our shareholders.
We want to attract, retain and develop the right people at all levels as they are fundamental to our Group's success. We strive to be a Group where bright, talented people with purpose can grow both themselves and our business.
Underpinning our culture of continuous improvement is the ongoing focus on human resources and the training and development of our people and attracting and retaining the highest calibre of workforce remains fundamental to the Group's strategy. During the year, we have continued to invest in our workforce and have increased our headcount to around 1,400 employees, which includes 61 employees who joined us with the Harry Peers acquisition. Throughout the year, we have strengthened a range of disciplines across the Group, including within our manufacturing operations team at Dalton.
During the year, we welcomed the appointment of Louise Hardy, our first female board member. Louise brings to the Group a wealth of relevant experience in the delivery of complex infrastructure projects and experience as a non-executive director of other publicly listed companies.
Our focus has been on promoting our graduate and apprenticeship schemes. Given the nature of the technical skills required in our business, it is essential that we invest in the development of our apprentices so that they are ultimately recognised as our talent for the future. In 2020 we had 33 colleagues successfully complete their apprenticeship, with a further 30 starting throughout the year, demonstrating our continued commitment to developing our people.
We have successfully on-boarded our first four apprentices following our work with the Institute for Apprenticeships, through which we collaboratively developed a metal fabricator apprenticeship programme under the government's Trailblazer apprenticeships. We identified the need for a level three metal fabricator apprenticeship, equivalent to A level, and a Trailblazer group was formed, working with training partners and leading industry representatives to develop a new apprenticeship standard that would meet the needs of industry employers.
A full review of our apprenticeships will be carried out in 2021 to look at how we further maximise the apprenticeship levy and ensure we have the skills our business needs for the future.
Engage and manage our people to perform their best every day
Our people, our clients and partners.
We maintain regular communications with all our employees and actively encourage them to share their thoughts and feedback.
In 2020, we have continued to develop of our employee engagement processes, predominantly through our internal communication channels. Our monthly Steel Reel newsletter and our quarterly employee magazine, Skyline, are available to all employees across all our locations. We use this medium to promote and celebrate the skills and achievements of our people, including the numerous accreditations awarded to our project teams during the year at the 2019 Structural Steel Design Awards and the 2019 Institute of Structural Engineers' Structural Awards.
During the latter stages of the financial year, we launched our new Group-wide intranet, to enable us to keep in touch with all our employees. This was even more important following the outbreak of COVID-19 to update a large number of colleagues who were working from home.
The Group currently operates a share incentive plan and a Save As You Earn ('sharesave') scheme to enable our people to share in the future and continued success of the Group and we intend to launch a further employee Save As You Earn scheme in 2021.
Our focus for 2021 will be to undertake a comprehensive workforce engagement programme to gain a deeper understanding of our colleagues' perspectives and to refresh our purpose and vision.
Reward and recognise those who demonstrate our values
Our people and our communities.
To ensure that working for Severfield is an attractive option for local people, which offers good, secure employment opportunities to all members of the community.
Our people are the heart of our business and to ensure individuals develop and maximise their full potential, we are committed to creating a culture that respects equality, fairness and diversity across all levels and locations. We are confident that we have developed a culture of equal pay. We offer attractive working environments and remuneration packages which include annual bonus schemes (linked to the Group's profit and safety performance) and participation in long-term incentive plans to ensure alignment with the Group's strategic objectives.
All of our colleagues are eligible to participate in the Severfield plc defined contribution pension scheme. Colleagues also have the option to make their own contributions through salary sacrifice. We continue to offer the collective benefits that become available through the Group's participation in schemes such as cycle to work, childcare vouchers and a discount scheme.
Develop, grow and lead our people to continually improve their skills and become strong leaders
Our people and our clients and partners.
To support our people to achieve excellent performance and continually develop their skills and become strong leaders and managers.
We are committed to investing in the training and development of our people.
We recognise the importance of training and developing our people further, especially considering the skills shortage within the construction industry. We offer National Vocational Qualifications to a vast majority of our workforce, the administration and co-ordination of which is dealt with by an in-house team of vocational experts. This team allows us to efficiently deal with amendments within the industry awarding bodies including the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board ('ECITB') and the UK Metal Decking Association ('UKMDA'), through the year without relying on external sources.
We have also continued to develop and support our people to apply Lean manufacturing techniques, achieve new qualifications, increase their skills and knowledge and develop their careers with the Group.
Our leadership and talent programmes are now well established at various levels within the business, including the Severfield development programme, which brings together talent with potential for future senior roles. In the second cycle of the Severfield development programme, 13 future leaders from across the business were invited to attend the course, delivered by an external consultant who specialises in running learning and development programmes worldwide. A total of 15 days of development is offered across three modules which focus on a wide range of areas including building self-awareness, how to lead and engage others, understanding markets and strategy and how to influence change and innovation. Following the success of our Severfield development programme, during the year, we launched our 'early careers' initiative to stimulate and promote the growth of those who are in the early stages of their career.