Gareth Jones, managing director of In-Comm Training, reveals why there is more than one gap to close when tackling the issue of skills in industry...
You can’t pick up a copy of a trade magazine, turn on a business show on the radio or trawl twitter without being bombarded with thoughts and opinions on the ‘skills gap’.
Rightly so. It continues to be a major issue facing modern day industry and one that we should all be doing our bit to bridge as soon as possible. However, I can’t help but feel we are missing a trick in our approach.
If we really want to be as competitive as we can and boost productivity in the process, we should also be focusing on another gap… one going by the name of ‘competency’.
We need to show young people how the skills and knowledge they are learning can be applied on the shop floor and the only way they can do that is to ensure they have access to industry experience.
For example, there is no substitute for showing apprentices how the attributes they are gaining can be used to improve efficiencies, come up with new solutions or meet Just-in-Time deliveries.
And that is where experienced trainers come into their own, trainers who have been experts in their field and want to pass some of that knowledge, experience and common sense down to the next generation.
We have just recruited another three trainers to help with expansion at our academies in the Black Country and Shropshire and this takes us up to 18. Between them, they have over 330 years’ experience of working across every manufacturing sector imaginable, from automotive and aerospace to food and pharmaceutical.
They cover all of the main competence gaps in industry, with specialists in maintenance, quality, production, health and safety and management systems.
We don’t believe we have the answer on our own and this is why we’re looking to work in partnership with industry to make a real difference.
This started with our relationship with Salop Design & Engineering in launching our Shrewsbury facility and we have now taken this to the next level with the creation of the Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology in Bridgnorth.
This is a £3m project – supported by the Marches LEP – that brings together ourselves, Salop Design, Grainger & Worrall and Classic Motors Cars to cater for over 2020 apprentices and learners by 2020.
There will also be capacity to work with 400 companies on developing existing manufacturing professionals up to Level 7 qualifications, covering business improvement techniques, team leadership, vehicle body repair and paint, vehicle body building, technical development, quality and continuous improvement.
This could well be the blueprint we need to not only meet the skills gap, but to help close the competency gap so many firms and politicians are currently ignoring.