A Black Country-based trade association’s innovative approach to solving the manufacturing sector’s biggest skills problem could be rolled out nationwide.
The West Midlands-based Confederation of British Metalforming (CBM) has devised a scheme with Walsall Business Partnership (WBP), which targets teachers through summer-time factory tours and off-site meetings - then encourages them to include their new knowledge in school timetables.
CBM president Barry Yeomans said the concept was trialled during 2010, with the EBP, and he is delighted by the way the just-completed 2011 scheme operated.
Mr Yeomans said: “We used feedback from last year’s trial to fine-tune the way the initiative worked, and it really couldn’t have been better received by the employers or the teachers.
“We‘re already seeing skill shortages as workers with decades of accumulated expertise retire, and those problems will intensify unless we persuade significant numbers of school-leavers that engineering can provide them with challenging, stimulating and rewarding careers.”
Previous schemes aimed at persuading youngsters to enter industry, have typically involved time-consuming school visits by company bosses, combined with expensive and glossy advertising campaigns.
Mr Yeomans said those nationally-driven initiatives didn’t have the desired impact, and believes that this programme is more rational and more cost-effective.
“For each teacher who buys into our approach, 20, 30 and even 40 youngsters will soon hear the realistic and up-to-date message about life in our industry,” he said.
“Teachers prepare lesson plans using the knowledge they‘ve gained during the summer, and present them to us at our National Metalforming Centre in West Bromwich, so we can discuss, and help to fine-tune the content, before the pupils are involved.
“We believe this approach will also bring longer-term benefits, as the teachers develop a deeper understanding of manufacturing, and are able to pass on their knowledge both to colleagues, and to successive generations of pupils.”
This year, seven teachers took part in the CBM summer study programme, which involved site visits to Regent Engineering, Sandvik Engineering, the TTI Group and the Hadley Group.
Mr Yeomans added: “We know from the immediate feedback that the teachers enjoyed their visits, they certainly asked all the right questions, and we gave them stacks of information to take back, to assess as possible content.
“The initiative is in its early stages, and we realise the benefits will not be seen immediately, but hopefully, once we have defined best practice for this approach, we can set up similar projects elsewhere in the Midlands, and in time, in all regions where manufacturing industry is based.”