Post-Brexit, with an ageing workforce and a shortage of graduates with science, engineering or mathematics qualifications, effective training is needed for younger and older workers

February 18, 2018

 

In April 2017 an apprenticeship levy was introduced. It requires companies with a £3m payroll or above to pay 0.5% of it to the government in return for vouchers, which smaller companies can also access, to spend on apprenticeships . . .

The EEF’s summary – from the employer’s perspective

The FT’s Business editor writes: “It is now clear that the UK government’s apprenticeship levy simply isn’t working. Apprenticeships fell by more than a quarter in the last three months of 2017 year on year, having fallen by 60% in the previous three months. Since April, when the levy was introduced, there have been just 158,000 apprenticeship starts, compared with 269,000 in the same period a year before”.

Some universities are now offering degree apprenticeships

These offer the opportunity to gain industrial knowledge and practical, relevant experience by combining study with on-the-job training. Leeds Beckett University is one such provider for non-levy and levy paying organisations in Leeds City Region.

And at post-graduate level

The Engineering Integrity Society events have recently included Young Engineers Seminars in January 2018, July 2017, December 2016, for newly qualified engineers from different companies who are encouraged by more senior engineers to attend. EIS is a long established charitable society, which focusses on the areas of fatigue, testing and durability. EIS members have many years of experience in these fields gained through working in some of the best-known companies in the industry.

“The levy has led employers to recoup the cost of existing in-house training schemes by relabelling them as apprenticeships” 

This Times leader also points out: “Ofsted cannot cope and the reasons are not complicated. The new apprenticeships target has increased its workload but its budget has been cut by 38% over the last two parliaments: it stood at £200 million in 2011 and will fall to £124 million by 2020. Reversing this cut would be easy to justify if the apprenticeship levy were working, since this would in due course drive up wages and tax revenues as well as skills. But the levy is not working. It was meant to incentivise large employers to invest more in apprenticeships by requiring them to pay into a central fund from which they can claim back some or all of their training costs.”

MP Meg Hillier, chairman, adds that parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has found that private providers are paid with taxpayers’ money to deliver public services but that government sometimes fails to monitor the results or penalise those that do not deliver.

A number of private providers have failed – the most widely publicised being First4Skills (funded by the government’s Skills Funding Agency) – and including Talents Training and Shared Educational Services Limited – leaving the apprentices and the institutions which hired them in serious difficulties.

Undeterred, last month the Cabinet Office launched a policy paper: Shared Services strategy for government.

Mission impossible? “The government is seeking to boost the number of apprenticeships at the same time as slashing the budget for Ofsted who are responsible for enforcing quality”

This is the charge made in another Times article, by Joe Dromey, senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, who has given evidence to the education select committee’s inquiry into apprenticeships.

The FT’s Business editor believes that the need for training and reskilling is imperative at a time when manufacturing is at a turning point, with the industrial internet about to revolutionise processes and business models and the integration and linking of big data, analytical tools and wireless networks with physical and industrial equipment. 

 

 

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Berck of West Bromwich: worker-management co-operation, training and investment

September 26, 2017

Berck Ltd, a family-run company in West Bromwich, founded in 1947, took difficult decisions to weather the downturn following the 2008 economic crisis.

To reduce costs, the company chairman Brian Yates and the management team decided to cut 11 jobs in the firm, which employed 90 people (above). They also asked the remaining employees to cut working hours and they agreed to do this in order to help the company through the crisis. After applying for a bank loan secured against the factory buildings, there was still a question about Berck’s ability to pay its monthly instalments on the loan and the directors were asked to take a salary break of two years, and put in some of their own money.

These measures were successful and in 2015, Berck received a Made in the Midlands’ Manufacturing Achievement Award

Berck produces a wide range of precision components, including cabling and routing, brackets batteries, terminal contacts, in-tank fuel cell sensors, air bag technology, switching for dashboard systems, which are used in the majority of car manufacturing plants in the UK and overseas. Products are exported to China, Mexico, India, Brazil, Egypt, the United States, Dominican Republic and most countries in Europe. components. Berck also serves over twenty other sectors, including domestic appliances, home computers, alternative medicines, i.t networking and solar heating

Like many successful West Midlands companies covered on this website, they invest in training and new machinery.

Above: Joe Hickman, toolroom apprentice – more news of apprentices on their Facebook page.

Last year, Berck invested in a Nikon Metrology iNEXIV VMA-4540 CNC video measuring machine (below) to replace Mitutoyo Quick Vision Ace CNC optical coordinate measuring machine (CMM) and a Kemco manual touch-probe CMM to inspect sheet metal parts and tools. See the Nikon pdf.

The latest widely reported news is that in July this year, Berck acquired Walsall’s Fourjay, specialists in deep drawing. The staff from Fourjay will now move across to West Bromwich to join Berck’s 70-strong workforce. Darren Yates, managing director at Berck, welcomed the addition of people with a variety of new skills to their skilled workforce.

Berck will now be supplying the MoD with vital fuses for Typhoon Eurofighter and F-16 combat jets. May they be used only for defence.  

 

 

 

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Crofts & Assinder

May 29, 2016

crofts logoEarlier this month Pamela Pinski wrote about Crofts & Assinder Limited based in Lombard Street, Digbeth, “the birth place of industry in Birmingham”.

On the company website we read that in 1875 George Crofts and Frederick Assinder started trading as brass founders in Lombard Street, Digbeth (below: the latest premises).

They specialised in the design and manufacture of cabinet handles and fittings and now use a range of materials including: brass, steel, cast Iron, zinc (mazak/zamak) ceramic, glass, acrylic, plastic and wood. Their products have been used in Rolls-Royces, London’s Ritz and Waldorf hotels, the White House in Washington and the Titanic.

crofts factory

Chief executive, Alex Crofts, the great-great grandson of founder George Crofts has pressed for more schools, and more students, to take an interest in manufacturing and engineering when it’s perceived as an undesirable career choice? Changes to educational funding have meant that the teaching of practical skills in some schools and colleges is reducing, meaning that students miss out on the chance to experience new skills and learn about our industry as a career. He writes about this subject which is taken seriously by other producers featured on this site:

”To address the skills gap, we should look closer to home. It’s important that we don’t forget our existing staff and we invest our time and money in order to teach them new skills. Moreover, individuals who have worked in a company for many years possess traditional skills, which are just as important as modern and technically advanced skills”.

“[T]he UK Commission for Employment and Skills 2016 survey revealed that ‘the modest economic growth of the past four years has been met by an unprecedented shortage of skills, leaving thousands of vacancies unfilled’. In my opinion, the lack of skills could be down to the decline in students wishing to pursue a career in manufacturing.

” . . . [I]ndustry must work closely with teachers and career officers in schools and colleges to offer work experience placements and apprenticeships, which provide a true taste of the industry. Whether it’s through career talks and fairs, work experience, workplace day visits or career sessions with motivational speakers, it’s our job to support and inspire the next generation of young people.

In recent years, Brumhour reports, Crofts has made significant investments into their product design range and now offers an exclusive bespoke design service. This has been followed by a 40% rise in export sales across Australia, France, Benelux, Germany, China, North America and Russia.

For more information, see the Crofts & Assinder website here.

 

 


Birmingham-based ADI group

February 3, 2016

Birmingham City Council leader John Clancy has said that the only chance of future success is to create wealth and jobs through capital spending – and his vision is for Birmingham to become a city of 1,000 small and medium sized businesses: “Business growth is essential. This is an entrepreneurial city and I am absolutely determined the way we move forward is through economic growth”.

We highlight one of many such businesses now. A link in the Brummie leads to Business Desk’s news of the Birmingham-based ADI group has announced it is planning to create 500 new jobs by 2020, doubling its staff in five years.

adi logoADI Electrical was established in 1990 by Alan Lusty and has grown over the years, the Group now having 15 limited companies with a head office in Kings Norton, Birmingham. It offers building & refurbishment, electrical, engineering compliance management, environmental, maintenance, manufacturing automation & information systems, mechanical, project management, system efficiency, and utilities systems.

adi employeeMore recently, we read, the business has developed a working relationship with North Bromsgrove school and also has an on-going association with Aston University Engineering Academy to help encourage young people into a future career in engineering.

“A skills shortage is an increasing area of concern for many businesses within the engineering sector,” said James Sopwith, group sales & marketing director: “Which is why we have an apprenticeship programme, to encourage and inspire more young people to enter into the sector.”

(Above right: Employee of the Year Winner: Farhaan ‘Faz’ Kazi, Quality & Standards Coordinator)

The business believes in local jobs for local people and in giving back to the community in which it is based.

adi 2 b30It is already part of the Business in the Community (BITC) initiative and works closely with local deprived or homeless people, giving them a business placement. Many gain confidence and some have gone on to gain permanent positions within the business.”

Enda Mullen (Birmingham Post), comments: “As the business continues to grow, adi Group seems well placed to help inspire future generations from across the region and beyond, not only within the engineering sector but also from a business development perspective”.


PPS: re-investment to secure success for the future

August 24, 2015

kirsty 5Following good news from Hydraforce, a press release about their latest investment has been forwarded by managing director, Kirsty Davies-Chinnock of Professional Polishing Services Ltd in Smethwick.

As the first UK free-issue polishing company to process wide sheet and plate via a 2000mm wide dull and satin polishing line, they are expanding this department with the purchase of a new double-headed line from Costa Levigatrici SpA in Italy, which will arrive and be commissioned during December 2015. The new line will polish plates up to 2000mm wide and 20mm thick, with a maximum piece weight of 2 tonne.

Alberto Burtini from Costa explains why their machine was the right choice for Professional Polishing Services:

costa logo“We were proud to demonstrate our build and engineering quality during their visit to our three factories in Italy. The machine is designed by the latest generation 3D Cad Cam technology and the software is uniquely developed by our engineers thus allowing us the control of every single machine function and create also tailor made solutions for special needs.”

Kirsty was impressed with the trials carried out in Italy:

“It’s an exciting period for PPS, this investment is a fantastic opportunity for us to grow to the next level and to cement our position as the UK’s market leader in stainless steel mechanical finishing.”

The investment itself is the largest ever made by Professional Polishing Services in its thirty two year history. This additional capital expansion builds on an ethos of dedicated growth and re-investment to secure success for the future.

tag logoA web search revealed that Kirsty has also been named as executive ambassador for TAG Network Midlands.

TAG is a networking association that celebrates and supports trainees, apprentices, interns and graduate level professionals across all industry sectors.


Hydraforce: new premises to open next month

August 24, 2015

hydraforce 2logoIn February, the story of Aston’s HydraForce, which celebrated 25 years in Birmingham last year was told on this site.

This privately owned precision manufacturer designs and makes hydraulic equipment and assemblies – hydraulic cartridge valves, manifolds and electro-hydraulic controls for agricultural and construction industries across Europe and Asia.

hydraforce factoryBusiness Desk reports that official opening of its new factory will take place next month. It has stayed close to its current St Stephens Street building in order to retain staff. 22 new value assembly and test cells have been installed and there is room to add a further 30 for new valve models.

Hydraforce has a well-established apprenticeship programme and is working to establish a graduate placement scheme. It will be the first tenant of Birmingham’s Advanced Manufacturing Hub, one of six economic zones: advanced manufacturing; business & professional services; creative & digital media; life sciences; food & drink; IT, electronics & communications.

The new building will serve as the European headquarters for HydraForce, which hopes to create more than 200 new jobs over the next five years and eventually employ around 500 people.


Mechatronic Solutions: Kings Norton Business Centre, Birmingham

April 4, 2015

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mechatronic logoMechatronic Solutions, one of the UK’s leading providers of innovative automation solutions and systems integration services, has delivered over 400 projects during the last 25 years across a wide range of manufacturing sectors.

mechatronic graphicMechatronics is a multidisciplinary field of engineering; design processes include a combination of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, control engineering and computer engineering.

Mechatronic Solutions has diversified, reducing its market dependency on the automotive supply chain from 95%, 5 years ago, to 49% in 2013 –14.In all it currently supplies the automotive, aerospace, business equipment, food & drink, healthcare, medical and packaging sectors.

To accommodate their expanding work load, in 2012 they moved from Sheldon to Kings Norton Business Centre, joining over 80 companies there, adding five new senior engineers to their small, highly skilled workforce and building further relationships with reliable contractors in all Mechatronic disciplines.

kaizen logoOne of many advantages of moving to larger premises was adding a Concept Kaizen area to serve Mechatronic’s growing customer base. Prototypes can be developed in this area and machines modelled in soft materials to provide an early realisation of the concept design being developed by Mechatronic engineers. By improving standardized activities and processes, Kaizen (lit: ‘change for the better’ – continuous improvement), first implemented in several Japanese businesses after the Second World War and formalized by Toyota, is now used throughout the United States and known as lean manufacturing.

One of a range of case studies on Mechatronic’s website.

Rentokil Healthcare, part of the Rentokil Initial international services group needed more effective protection for employees from the risk of injury from ‘needle stick’. The company provides waste disposal services to factories, retail and leisure outlets. Although healthcare workers are those most often affected by needlestick injuries, other occupations can be affected, including refuse collectors, cleaners and tattoo artists. Needlestick injuries can also affect carers and children picking up used needles. The major concerns associated with needlestick injury are the risk of contracting hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus and HIV. After an initial feasibility study, Mechatronic developed an automated system to deal with every aspect of emptying and cleaning bins. The components of the automated solution had to be able to operate in different countries, so the software had to give commands to equipment and operators in the relevant native tongue. Mechatronic was then asked to project manage all further installations worldwide. Rentokil employee working conditions and safety environment have improved and productivity rose. Their healthcare depots have significantly increased the number of bins per hour that can be handled.

mechatronic robot

Many of Mechatronic’s other processes use robotics and the company has designed and built an automatic robot cell to check and ultrasonically weld ten different assemblies with coded, quick change fixtures. This procedure may be seen on video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmn8FUAAJ78 – and links to other videos may be seen on the website of Mechatronic Solutions.

The Birmingham Press reports that MP Richard Burden, concerned about the high level of long term unemployment in his Northfield constituency, hosted a jobs fair for South Birmingham at Bournville College last year. This was part of the Climb to the Future Project initiated in 2013 to bring the local community and businesses together to build a new economic future for the area. Organisations involved included Birmingham City Council’s Employment Access Team, Bournville College, the Department for Work and Pensions and the National Apprenticeship Service.

Mechatronic Solutions was one of over 40 employers from across the city exhibiting on the day, including local firms involved in the Climb project, such as MG Motor and ADI Total Engineered Solutions.