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FEATURE PACKAGING


INJECTING NEW TALENT INTO THE PLASTICS INDUSTRY


covering everything from trouble shooting to advanced injection moulding, supported by a structured on-the-job development plan. She is now the manager of Broanmain’s injection department and is making a tangible difference to the business, supervising five team members and increasing both productivity and sales.


Faced with a lack of candidates with proven plastics experience, one plastics company has taken a different approach to staff recruitment and retention. SME technical trade moulder Broanmain is investing in people with engineering skills who display a willingness to make a difference


T


he plastics industry is suffering from a severe skills shortage – 92 per cent


of companies are ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about the lack of skills supporting their business, and 46 per cent have reported difficulty recruiting. Add to this the fear that Brexit could see many of the 18,000+ EU plastics workers leave the UK, and it’s clear that businesses need to take action now to future-proof their operations. The problem is being compounded by the


fact that the skills shortage is not confined to one particular area of the workforce. Research from the British Plastics Federation found unfilled vacancies at every level, from apprentices and shop floor staff, to technicians, managers and engineers. Companies must therefore address not only their immediate vacancies, but also how the skills shortage is affecting the morale of their existing workforce, their business productivity, and their plans for future succession.


A DIFFERENT APPROACH Due to rapid business expansion, which saw turnover increase by 12.9 per cent in


16 DECEMBER/JANUARY 2019 | IRISH MANUFACTURING


just two years, Broanmain realised it needed to develop a senior workshop team with not just the right skills but also the right drive and ethos, if it was to continue to meet high customer expectation. As a result, in January 2017, the company adjusted its recruitment model, advertising for applicants with engineering skills rather than proven plastics industry experience. Process systems engineering graduate Maria Iglesias Lopez’s team building and problem-solving skills stood out during a day-long interview with Broanmain. However, the team knew that to get the best out of Lopez it was essential that she undergo training specific to the task in hand.


ON THE JOB TRAINING Broanmain enrolled Lopez onto Sumitomo (SHI) Demag’s UK Training Academy programme. Based in Daventry, the SDUK Academy offers high quality training to enable students with zero knowledge to attain a thorough understanding of injection moulding. Over the course of just 18 months, Lopez passed six assessments


Family-owned technical trade moulder Broanmain reports significant improvements after adjusting its recruitment and team development model


DISPELLING THE ENGINEERING MYTHS But why is it so difficult for companies like Broanmain to recruit and retain good staff? Wilf Davis, Broanmain’s MD, believes that part of the reason is that engineering is undervalued as a career choice. “In Europe, engineers are respected in the same way as a doctor or lawyer. But the term ‘engineer’ has become diluted in the UK to mean anything from a washing machine repairer to a warehouse technician. This has created a stigma around engineering and a belief that it is a mundane, unskilled manufacturing job. In fact, the plastics industry needs people with a whole range of skill sets, from STEM ability to artistic and creative talents, who can make a real difference.” Nigel Flowers, MD of Sumitomo (SHI)


Demag UK, agrees: “Injection moulders today face unprecedented challenges, with increased competition and stretched resources. Skills shortages account for 30 per cent of all manufacturing vacancies and we are acutely aware that this is especially prevalent in the polymer sector. We need to work together as an industry to share best practice and address the skills shortfall. Investment in training is imperative to succession planning, employee satisfaction, workforce retention and future business prospects. Through the SDUK Academy we are helping to address many of these challenges, and businesses that have taken part to date have reported tangible benefits.”


Broanmain www.broanmainpl astics.co.uk T: +44 (0) 1306 885 888


A BRIGHTER FUTURE For Broanmain, investing in people is continuing to pay dividends and the company is a firm believer that its approach of nurturing and developing its own talent – rather than recruiting solely on past experience – is the way forward. “We saw an opportunity to appoint a person that fit our culture and who had the scientific understanding and enthusiasm to achieve tangible business improvements. It was definitely the right decision,” says operations manager, Jo Davis.


/ IRISHMANUFACTURING


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