When it comes right down to it, most business, and indeed most things in general, are pretty simple at heart. In our case, we are called Alltube because basically, we make tubes. It seems a pretty easy equation; people want tube, we give to them.
The thing is that it’s easy to say we make tubes but much harder to actually do it. This is because we produce everything from some fairly straightforward pipe work, through to complex, very specialist, bespoke builds, and none of these products produce themselves. No matter how simple or complex the job, regardless of the level of the automated machinery involved, a skilled operator is needed to produce the finished work.
You are probably aware of the seemingly never-ending discussion around the skills gap and, in all fairness, it is an issue that British industry clearly needs to address. Articles on shortages in everything from software designers through to bricklayers seem to be a regular feature of the business section of most newspapers and are regularly a discussion point on television. The doomsayers regularly point out that we need to increase our numbers of workers in this or that area by a large percentage by 2030, or, that unless we encourage more of a specific kind of person into this industry or that sector we will fall behind overseas producers.
To be honest though, and going back to my earlier point about things being relatively simple at heart, on a Monday morning when we turn on the lights and look at the week of work we have ahead of us, the bigger issue of a national skills gap is not what concerns us. What really interests us there and then, is someone with the skills we need to operate the machinery that supplies our customers their orders.
Our solution to this is to build from inside up. For years now we have worked to build our workforce by applying an age old method of bringing in young people, arranging training and skills instruction, letting the older and wiser heads teach them on the job, and allowing them the options to progress and continue to develop. The result of this is that they, in time, become the older and wiser heads that teach the next intake.
It’s not free to train people though and in a constantly pressured market place there is a temptation to cut back on training as a cost. We don’t agree with this approach. For us, the training is ensuring that we continue to lead the market by producing the highest standard of manufacturing possible.
Currently in the team we have Thomas Malings and Gavin Cope, who are both doing Mechanical Manufacturing Engineering Apprenticeships to level 3 and Joshua Jordan and Luke Bishop, who are on Improving Performance Intermediate apprenticeships at level 2.
They get qualified and get to know the floor by helping provide the service our customers rely on. As they progress from ‘newbie’ to ‘qualified’, they will become a respected and highly skilled part of the team, and can be relied upon to take on and complete a task. They are as much a part of our investment in the business as any new machine or technology we employ, and without them, and others like them, we would struggle to maintain our position as a market leader.
There is a quote, which is occasionally bandied around, that seems appropriate here that goes along the lines of a senior manager asking ‘what if we train people, and they leave’ and getting the response ‘well that would be better than not training them and they stay.’ It’s a fair point and, if we all invest in training young people, we may just help to bridge that skills gap along the way.
For further information on the skills gap, click the links below: