Don’t let the sun go down on our future

1 min read

'More people worship the rising than the setting sun,' the cocksure young Pompey once quipped to venerable Roman dictator, Sulla.

It's a quote worth contemplating as you enjoy a beautiful sunset over UK manufacturing. The sky might still shimmer with the eye-catching oranges and pinks of an ageing workforce's twilight. But unless you start investing in young talent – a long, dark night beckons. The uncomfortable truth is that too few manufacturers give youth a chance. Somehow, when it comes to hiring for the future, a worrying number descend into the archetypal shopfloor dissenter. Laying the blame on others (politicians, teachers, parents) and hankering for the good old days – the kind of behaviour we'd baulk at during improvement campaigns has become commonplace on skills. It's time to get behind the wheel of the bus instead of grumbling away on the back seat like a manufacturing Victor Meldrew. Let's start by lowering our expectations of school leavers. It's one thing to dismiss young hopefuls because their CVs are littered with spelling mistakes. But to banish an applicant because his or her MSc features one module on advanced mechanics whereas you did three is quite another. An HR professional confided earlier this month that there's nothing worse than working with old-school engineers when hiring. A penchant for perfection can frighten the daylights out of latent talent. And there's plenty of potential out there. Demand for apprenticeship spaces outstrips supply by 12 to one according to industry figures. They are pretty favourable odds for finding some wheat among all the reported chaff. With the right coaching, investment and encouragement, a rough diamond can soon be polished up into an impressive sparkler. And there's no reason to lose your prize possession to some cash-rich global conglomerate. Not if you make your protégé feel valued, empowered and open up a career path to match their potential. So drop the sob stories and finger pointing. You can conquer the skills crisis a damn sight quicker than the Department for Education. It just needs a leap of faith and cast-iron commitment. Rome, as Pompey would tell you, wasn't built in a day.