The Manufacturer catches up with Top 100 2014 exemplar Rowan Crozier – CEO of Brandauer – to find out how the forward looking manufacturer decided to tackle its skills issues head on.
Twelve months ago Brandauer, a precision presswork specialist based in Birmingham, was staring at a major skills issue and one that threatened to halt its ambitious growth plans.
The average age of its workforce was 55+, with many of the technical experts in the world class facility either entering retirement or fast approaching it.
Unsurprisingly the management team was worried about the skills drain of these people leaving the business and not having anyone to pass this knowledge down to.
There was another issue on the horizon. The company – a firm advocate of growing its own staff – had lost heart with its apprentice programme after some of its best talent was snapped up by a resurgent Jaguar Land Rover, worse still this was after many had completed their training.
“I suppose it’s fair to say it wasn’t an ideal situation,” explained Crozier, who was made CEO of Brandauer last year at just 39.
“We were stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand our best staff were getting older and we were on the verge of losing many of them, but our efforts to replace them with the next generation was costing us a lot of money with very little reward.”
“There were two options. Bemoan our bad luck and lack of Government support, or look at alternative approaches we could take. Those who know anything about our 153-year history will tell you there was only one route we were going to take.”
Brandauer responded by putting together a five-year strategic skills plan that involved input from more than 20 employees. It captured ideas from all areas of the business and used staff involvement to encourage ownership, so any new innovations have been actioned and driven through by the people that can ultimately make it successful.
This signaled the launch of the 5Rs – retention, remuneration, resource, requirement and recruitment.
More than 100 ideas were generated in total, ranging from increased engagement with schools and alternative remuneration ideas to a training school and collaboration with like-minded companies in the Midlands Assembly Network – a nine-strong group of sub-contract manufacturers that Brandauer is part of.
At the heart of this new approach was a cross-company “Improvers Scheme”, which gives all employees the chance to learn new skills, including the management team who have accessed significant leadership and management training.
Crozier, a firm advocate of continuous professional development, explains, “Each part of the strategic plan is important, but I’m especially pleased that we’ve been able to not only revitalise our apprentice scheme but actually transform it.
“A number of mentors have been internally recruited and trained to help with the induction process and ongoing development of the apprentices, providing useful tips, a sounding board for any problems and an insight into what it is like climbing the manufacturing career ladder.
“We’ve got three young guys who are doing really well and they’ll be joined by another two in the summer. The future is bright and we’ve managed to get the average age of the workforce down to 47.”