A profitable Midland engineering firm is having to turn work down – because it cannot find new recruits.
Worcestershire-based Glassworks Hounsell is being thwarted from laying on extra shifts and increasing working capacity by a lack of suitable candidates.
The firm recently invested more than £200,000 in a new factory unit to help meet orders from a range of customers – but has struggled to find the workers needed to expand the order book.
The ‘‘immensely frustrating’’ skills gap has led bosses at the Black Country firm to join with other manufacturers in the region to call for an Engineering Academy to encourage youngsters and graduates into the sector.
Will Brinkman, commercial director of Lye-based Glassworks Hounsell, which dates back to 1887, said: “We could be working more shifts and longer hours but we need decent engineers.
“We are having to turn work away which is a bad place to be. You do not want to be doing that because the work may not come back.
“You read about unemployment and the number of people out of work, the fact that there are no jobs around. But we need skilled youngsters who are prepared to work and learn and they are simply not around.
“We cannot find good, skilled people. We are a profitable company and this is preventing us growing.”
Mr Brinkman said there was a ‘‘fundamental problem’’ with the UK education system which was failing to address the skills gap.
“We have been looking for a good graduate for a couple of years. But you can earn a lot more money as a lawyer than you can as an engineer.’’
West Midland manufacturers are now calling for an Engineering Academy to be set up in the region to help plug the skills gap.
Steve Lomas, partner at ER Grove, Halesowen-based chartered accountants who hosted a recent debate by manufacturers on the training crisis, said: “The idea is that each apprentice will cycle through a series of work placements in a number of companies, spreading the cost and time pressures on each business. We have the commitment of a number of Black Country manufacturers and are now identifying the right educational partner.”