Cut out and keep: skills crisis solved

1 min read

Cash in on a new government grant and snap up an apprentice, urges WM editor Max Gosney

Here's a solution for the skills crisis that needs no magic wands, fairy godmother or begging letters to wealthy oligarchs. Between now and WM's next People & Productivity survey in 11 months' time, find £13,100 and hire an apprentice. (And for more on apprentices, see p18.) Granted, that kind of sum – the average apprentice salary, according to our People & Productivity research (p23) – is not small change for your average factory. Margins are wafer thin, cash flow is king and the annual investment budget is subject to more applications than the kit man vacancy at Manchester United. A new compressor or forklift would come before an elaborate tea boy or girl, you might think. At least those things offer a tangible efficiency payback. But you'd be wrong. Skills shortages were a direct cause of downtime in 44% of UK factories, according to our findings. Lines replete with shiny new CNC machines sit in eerie silence as a skeleton crew waits for the shift change and the one person who actually knows how to work them. A day or two of such a debacle has to add up to £13,100 in lost productivity. The problem runs deeper still: our survey revealed woeful tales of lines stopped by a dearth of basic production skills. In fact, shopfloor operators outranked experienced engineers as the most wanted on manufacturing managers' recruitment wishlists. Expert operators don't have to be an endangered species. Intensive training, mentoring and an NVQ in manufacturing operations can all provide the framework. Raw enthusiasm, manual dexterity and good interpersonal skills can do the rest. Look beyond the Daily Mail diatribe about broken Britain and you'll find a bucketload of eligible youngsters yearning for a chance to prove themselves. The government will put £1,500 towards the bill under the AGE 16 to 24 apprenticeship grant for SMEs. And that's guaranteed cash, providing junior makes it past week 13 of your very own version of The Apprentice. So, a measly £11,600 to eliminate downtime, invest in your site's long-term future and the chance to free yourself of the skills crisis forever – what possible reason could you find not to say, 'you're hired'?