With the 2015 upgrades to the ISO9001 and 14001 standards, and the 2016 alignment of the automotive standard TS16949 (now designated as IATF16949).
Rapid prototyping at H T Brigham adds value for customers
The benefits of 3D printing have been widely reported; fast, low-cost and kind to the environment. This rapid prototyping allows working concepts to be ruled in or out more quickly, speeding up the development process and reducing the project lead time as a whole.
An issue which has quite a few manufacturing and engineering SMEs scratching their heads at the moment, is how to tackle the sector’s growing skills gap. Whether skilled productive people have moved to other roles within the sector, or have moved out of the trade completely, we seem to have a real problem.
This is an issue which not only affects small to medium size businesses though, large scale OEMs are also keen to close the gap, meaning that companies like H T Brigham are having to compete against the big boys for any emerging talent.
At H T Brigham, we are particularly focused on closing the gap in the area of Toolmaking. This is an area where many begin their careers in presswork, often acting as a firm platform or springboard, from which the individual pursues other avenues into management and beyond. The problem with this, is that a presswork company like H T Brigham will always need toolmakers, and if young toolmakers are not staying in the trade, then we have an aging and decreasing skills pool. We now need a long-term solution to what has become a significant problem.
Apprenticeship schemes have long been an effective method of recruiting and nurturing engineering talent. If successful, this route has obvious benefits for both the individual and the company, but there are risks, especially for smaller businesses.
One advantage of recruiting an apprentice is the economics. At a minimum wage of £2.68 per hour, there can be no argument there. Obviously, like H T Brigham, many companies will choose to pay more, but with National Apprenticeship grants and local jobs fund initiatives, potentially totalling up to £3,000 per apprentice each year, the support available can make this an appealing option financially.
Another benefit of attracting young recruits at the start of their careers, is that they can be a kind of blank canvas. The fact that they have fresh knowledge and have not yet had chance to acquire any bad habits, is a definite plus point for an employer. An apprentice can also be encouraged, or even moulded, to work a certain way and fit in with your company ethos.
An apprentice is also likely to bring a certain enthusiasm and energy to the workplace. This, combined with a knowledge of up to date processes and techniques, may even refresh existing processes at your company, which could do with being updated or improved.
Deciding to invest in an apprentice is a big step for a small business to take and not without its potential draw backs. With most apprenticeship programmes combining on the job and college based training for an average of 3 years, there is a significant long-term commitment on the employer’s part. Wages will need to be paid irrespective of workload and the company’s other financial commitments.
Time is the other major investment which the employer will make during this process. With most training programmes requiring 4 days per week on the job training, colleagues will need commitment and patience to nurture the individual through the process. This may take employees away from their regular duties to some degree.
In addition to all of this, is the fact that after you have invested heavily in getting your apprentice through their programme, there is no guarantee that they will stay. Three years down the line you could be back to square one, but stability, commitment and the prospect of future development will go a long way towards combating this and keeping the allure of the OEMs at bay.
Investing for the future
It is important to set out a clear career path for your apprentices. This, along with continual appraisals and pay scale increments, will encourage commitment and motivate at the same time. Contractual tie-ins could be another way for a company to protect its investment for a given period of time.
Without the big budgets, huge training academies and exposure of the OEMs, SMEs have more of a task on their hands to attract new talent, but by paying well, committing to the individual and offering career development, we can compete.
Hiring an apprentice is undoubtedly a significant long-term commitment for a small business to undertake. The rewards will not be reaped immediately and there are no guarantees, but if each employer invested in the future of just one individual in this way, the benefits would be there for all to see. In a few short years, with a pool of engineering talent available, we could be well on the way to closing the skills gap.