Birmingham manufacturer tackles skills shortage

Posted on 22 Jul 2014 by Victoria Fitzgerald

West Midlands manufacturer, Brandauer, is tackling the skills shortage head-on by launching its own “Improvers” scheme and trebling the size of its apprentice programme.

The Birmingham-based firm, one of the largest contract presswork and stamping specialists in Europe, has embarked on a recruitment drive after securing more than £1m of new contracts for clients in the automotive, life protection and renewable energy sectors.

The company is looking for a team leader, toolmakers and bench hands to cope with the expansion, but is struggling to find skilled staff to make an immediate impact.

In an era where big OEMs are dominating the recruitment arena, bosses at the organisation believe SMEs need to do more to promote the benefits of working in a smaller manufacturer.

Rowan Crozier, sales and marketing director, said: “Brandauer is one of the best in the world at producing complex precision components, exporting 75% of our parts to China and the United States.

“Like many SMEs we feel we offer a great place to work. There are lots of development opportunities, the chance to work across many markets/areas of the business and learn on the latest processes and technology.

“For example, we’ve just spent £800,000 on a new wire EDM cell, one of only a few currently installed in the UK.

“Despite all of this, we are struggling to fill a few key positions and feel part of this is down to people not fully understanding what they can achieve by working for a smaller manufacturer.

“It’s not the Government’s job to change their perceptions, it’s down to us and the rest of industry to play our part.”

Brandauer, member of the Midlands Assembly Network (MAN), is addressing the long-term skills issue by investing over £150,000 into an improvers scheme and in “growing its own”.

The former involves targeting a mixture of industry professionals looking to upskill and mature people considering a career in manufacturing.

This will be supplemented by its new apprenticeship programme, developed to be more flexible and rewarding for both parties.

Each learner will receive twelve months of off-the-job training with providers including In-Comm and EEF, before returning to the company for three further years of shop floor experience, all leading to an NVQ Level 3 qualification.

Students will spend time with experienced toolmakers, setters, quality experts and estimators to ensure traditional skills are retained for future generations.

Mr Crozier said: “We’ve always had a track record of developing our own engineers; you only have to look at the current team with our MD David Spears and Technical Estimator Dave Merchant both former Brandauer apprentices.

“In recent years we have experienced difficulties, with some OEMs cherry picking the best talent after we’d done all the hard work.

“This made us look at our programme and resulted in a number of improvements, including the introduction of mentors for each apprentice to help with everyday issues, personal development and softer skills, such as communication and time keeping.

“We’ve got some great examples of what you can achieve at Brandauer, with Stuart Berry being one of our best.

“The former apprentice has just completed a First Class Honours Degree in Management of Manufacturing Systems and has been appointed as Team Leader for our New Product Introduction Cell.”

Established in 1862, Brandauer provides precision components to customers in automotive, construction, medical, telecoms and renewables.

The company currently employs three apprentices and has plans to more than treble this figure to 10 by the end of 2015.