Manufacturing chief encourages joined-up approach to skills

Manufacturing chief encourages joined-up approach to skills

One of the bosses of a growing Shropshire pressings and assembly specialist believes ‘three’ is the magic number for bridging the growing skills gap in industry.

Christopher Greenough, director of Salop Design & Engineering, feels that companies should not wait for the Government to come up with the answers and instead should look at creating closer partnerships with education and training providers as a possible solution.

He is adamant that a more joined up approach - starting at primary school level and then flowing through all forms of education, combined with stronger partnerships with the training specialists - will increase the pipeline and suitability of talent considering manufacturing as a potential career.

“It’s not really a new issue either. We have long suffered from a lack of serious investment in training for our young people, not helped admittedly by serious economic pressures that made management teams batten down the hatches and spend all their money on simply surviving,” explained Christopher, who is also president of Made in the Midlands.

“Even when times were good, there was an imbalance between knowing you should be training your people and investing in the next generation of engineers and making sure the programmes you put in place delivered these objectives.”

He continued: “First of all, we need industry to continue to innovate, grow, create jobs and continue this desire to invest in generating staff, now and in the future. This will create the demand and hopefully position industry as a viable career.

“Next we need our schools and colleges to talk about manufacturing as a fantastic opportunity and spend time getting to know what 21st century engineering actually looks like. Teachers are vital for sowing the early seeds into the minds of pupils looking to set out on their career path.

“Finally, the missing link; training providers. Not often discussed, but absolutely critical in the winning formula we need to create.”

The latter is an area Salop Design & Engineering know well, having finally developed a strong relationship with In-Comm after years of struggling to find the right organisation to team up with.

Together, the new partnership has invested more than £300,000 into a new apprentice training academy at the firm’s base in Brixton Way, which features modern lathes, milling centres, surface grinders, welding bays and a 10-seat CAD training room.

Over 60 apprentices will be taught here every year, with the long-term plan to increase this to 200 by 2018.

Gareth Jones, managing director, concluded: “This approach – where we build partnerships as opposed to just delivering a one-off contract - is what we’ve been trying to get industry to adopt for some time. It appears the penny has dropped and hopefully more firms will see the benefit of investing time, money and commitment into making sure the engineers of the future get the best possible training.

“In summary, the vision is clear…manufacturers working closely with providers, and both of us building links with schools that are keen to engage.”