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June 2008 – Training key to future success

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One of the keys to the future of the steel construction industry is attracting new recruits capable of being trained to continue delivering products and services to the high standards that have captured the sector such a healthy market share over the past 20 years or so. Evidence that steel construction is already grappling with the recruitment problems that are shared by all sectors of manufacturing related industry can be seen in this issue of NSC, in our training article on page 32.

We are far from being alone in having a workforce that is ageing because young people are being attracted elsewhere. The skills needed in estimating, draughtsmanship, fabrication and erection are hard to find outside the sector so recruitment advertisements are most likely to attract applications from people already working for rivals. The grass is seldom greener elsewhere, but higher pay is often enough to entice some people to move. They have
to be replaced, by in effect poaching someone from another rival… and so it goes on.

A lot of valuable management time is wasted each year on getting on and off this merry- go-round. The long term answer is to take effective action to ensure that the skills that will be needed tomorrow are being developed today. BCSA has identified some of the problems as lying with the sort of courses that are provided by further education and technical colleges, and action is being taken to redress this balance. Much rests in the hands of individual companies though in setting up apprentice programmes and other training.

The Metals Industry Apprentice of the Year Award organised by MetSkill provides evidence of the success of efforts aimed at ensuring that a high quality of apprentice is being developed. The MetSkill 2008 Career Development award went to an advanced apprentice in metallurgy at Corus Engineering Steel, and a fourth-year apprentice at Corus Construction and Industrial was runner up. An apprentice roll-forming technician at Metsec won the 2008 Craft Skills award. Each of them has not only been an exemplary apprentice but has already repayed their employers’ investment by the valuable contribution they have made.

They are proof that training is not a cost burden, but is an investment with a definite payback. Increasingly it looks like training investment is going to be key to success and even survival in competitive markets. Carry on merely poaching your rivals’ employees if you choose – but be prepared to pay the long term cost.

Nick Barrett

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Click on the cover to view this month's issue as a digimag.