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Boom or decline?

02 March 2015

With UK Manufacturing Industry performing better than expected, international exporter of linear motion products, HepcoMotion saw an increase in business last year by nearly 5%. In the light of this, company chairman, Giles Forster, asks: Are we attracting the new blood that Industry needs?

We compete against some of the biggest blue chip manufacturers  in our industry and low-cost suppliers from Asia by consistently providing excellent products, customer service and flexibility in delivering customer-specific solutions.

Many lower quality copy products have come and gone over the years but customers find that our system is particularly accurate, reliable, low-maintenance and durable.

We have also found that by diversifying across a wide range of industries such as Packaging, Nuclear, Aerospace, Mechanical Handling, Food, Electronic, Architecture, Scientific, Automotive, Medical, Pharmaceutical, Film & Television, Printing, Machine Tool and Automation, we can spread any risk associated with any decline in one particular market.

How do we attract the bright sparks?

One challenge for us as a growing business is the skills gap in Mechanical Engineering.  In business, people matter.

The people involved in any manufacturing business are crucial for many reasons, not least because they create the standard of product we sell.

Within mechanical engineering, very specific skills are required and businesses need to recruit people who understand the technical, digital and practical needs for the entire production process. Good people are essential to ensure and maintain high levels of quality and efficiency. The best people care about their work and are passionate - producing the best products they can.

The fundamental truth is that we need young, bright sparks that want to work in engineering.

However, in recent years, there has been a dramatic decline in the number of men and women coming to work within the engineering industry. Up to now, it has not been an attractive option for the masses.

Some of this can be blamed on the new trend to work in more glamorous industries such as TV and Media, but mostly there has been less emphasis on engineering as a career option within schools. By the time school children have considered options for their working lives, we have lost them to the more mainstream choices. I also think that people don’t really understand the impact engineering has on life – the number of uses and industries into which products go.

It is exciting and rewarding work and together we need to promote it much more.  Engineering really can be incredibly exciting, we make parts that help to keep aeroplanes flying,  go onto sets of the latest TV programmes, animations or Hollywood Films, we even have parts that get sent into outer space (and those a re just a few examples).

Engineers will solve the world’s greatest issues & problems of the future

Our work also contributes to famous artwork and installations. Hepco were involved in helping to create the Olympic Torch at the opening ceremony in London and the new David Cerny sculpture in Prague.

Today though, a more positive future looks possible. There is finally more focus on engineering and manufacturing in the media. Have you noticed how the heroes in Hollywood are often engineers? The BBC also recently ran a number of reports on the breakfast show about engineering, apprenticeship and UK manufacturing.

All of this media attention is piqueing interest amongst younger people for the first time in decades. We have certainly seen an increasing number of people applying for our apprenticeship scheme. But we’d like more!

Traditionally, a mechanical engineering apprenticeship has been seen as "hands on metalwork" but with applications from colleges all over the South West, both men and women are now applying to learn the trade. A Level 4 qualification also means they learn about the business, sales and marketing and the production environment.

Some of the senior members of our management team who have previously been apprentices include myself (Chairman), our Purchasing Manager and the Production Manager. This shows that starting your career as an apprentice can lead to greater things over time. Lets tell the youngsters that!

In conclusion, a lot more effort is needed by Industry to promote engineering as a career choice. Show people what the work creates and how much it impacts on our daily lives.

Quite simply, engineers will solve the world’s greatest issues and problems of the future and we need more of them.

Key Points

  • Recent years have seen a dramatic decline in the number of men and women coming to work within the engineering industry
  • There is a lack of understanding of the impact engineering has on life; the number of uses and industries into which products go
  • A Level 4 qualification means apprentices learn about the business, sales and marketing and the production environment