Industry view: Hunting for the right people

By Iain Frater, manufacturing manager at Hunting Energy Services

Like that faced by the oil and gas industry, the search for talent and highly-skilled labour within the manufacturing sector is possibly at its most intense.

The squeezed middle – workers with between five to 10 years’ experience – are the most fought over and are therefore the most mobile sector of the labour market.

As a consequence, companies are beginning to re-shape their strategies to give staff attraction and retention the best chance of succeeding.

Iain Frater

According to the UK Manufacturing 2014 report, six in 10 companies will increase their training budgets in the next two years. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that companies, who either solely work within the sector or have a manufacturing arm to the business, are switching on to new and innovative ways of attracting talent and, of course, people and personal development is very much at the heart of this.

At Hunting, we’ve always found that staff loyalty is best won by providing early opportunities and long-term career paths for leavers and graduates, rather than trying to simply buy it in. We continuously encourage our younger employees to further their personal development and we provide a number of modern apprenticeship opportunities in various aspects, including welding fabrication and mechanical engineering.

We’ve recently extended this with the launch of a custom training cell, which will see us welcome a yearly intake of students to work alongside a dedicated training manager, gaining first-hand experience in using machinery and manufacturing parts. This is a model which we already have had success in throughout our bases in the US and the Far East, helping build up strong relationships with local colleges.

We also actively seek to draw talent from other sectors. External industry knowledge, as well as information and direction passed from senior personnel, is fed into a custom-built intranet: the Hunting Knowledge Bank. All employees are encouraged to share their skills and expertise to preserve it for those who follow in their footsteps at the company, helping individuals benefit from better product and sector knowledge.

The manufacturing sector in Scotland is worth an estimated £12billion to the UK economy, so there is absolutely no questioning just how important staff are to maintaining and helping grow this figure.

Companies are slowly but surely stepping away from observation learning and embracing a more hands-on approach to training. Coupled with providing early opportunities for young employees, these small steps could have a big impact on the preservation of the sector in the years ahead.


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