It is expected of manufacturers to understand customer and supplier relationships both internally and externally across their organisations and to be able to consider their supply chain as a whole when making strategic decisions. Ian Tindle, director at engineering and maintenance specialist Sora Group, says that the same rigour needs to be applied to the education system across schools, colleges and into companies.
“If we consider career development as a value stream”, explains Tindle, “it is very interesting to see some of the pitfalls in the supply of appropriately educated young people into employment.”
According to Tindle companies often find that apprentices are missing some of the key skills required to perform effectively, both from a technical and motivational perspective. As such, its common to hear of companies investing in “retraining” staff once they join the company.
Where is the root cause?
Furthermore, asserts Tindle, the problem of qualification is further than one pass of the buck back down the education system. “FE providers, and colleges frequently complain that students do not have the required basic literacy and numeracy skills to progress beyond the fundamentals of their subjects,” he says. In industry related courses, a lack of awareness as to business and competitive needs are identified as particularly lacking alongside general problems with motivation and aspiration.
Tindle puts forward a new perspective on the capability gap: “It could be argued, that schools aren’t close enough to their end customer (employers) and so are not working to achieve the objectives which will add benefit to companies and the economy as a whole,” he says.“In lean terms, familiar to us industry hands, if we were to apply root cause thinking, where would we focus?”
The quality of the teaching staff, the role of parents in helping influence children to make informed decisions on the future, the relevance of the national curriculum to the economic and social needs of the future and perhaps predominantly at the moment, reductions in funding are all possible culprits according to Tindle. But while admitting that the problem is complex Tindle urges industry thinkers to focus instead on the cost of not getting education ‘right first time’.
In an attempt to address this right first time failure in the employee development supply chain Sora have started working with a number of colleges and companies on the delivery of their apprenticeship programmes. “Sora have developed a number of additional coaching and training packages to enhance the quality of apprentice delivery at a range of colleges and have seen great benefit,” explains Tindle.
“If we consider engineering and maintenance,” he continues, “the apprentices we work with are shown ‘why’ we need to maintain, along with ‘how’. This is a different approach to traditional developments. We are showing young people techniques that are massively important to business while they are still in the training.”
The techniques Tindle refers to include root cause analysis and data management. Apprentices are also shown lean production techniques, giving them a grounding in basics such as 5S, standard operations and waste identification.
Strategic thinking within education
But improving apprenticeship delivery is just the first step for Sora. Inspired by the positive feedback from this apprenticeship development the company is now working with a number of education establishments to introduce a similar joined up approach to employability development into the curriculum delivery in schools and colleges. “Manufacturing leaders need to play a role here,” says Tindle. “They need to view schools and colleges, from a professional and leadership perspective, in the same light as they would disjointed departments within their business.” There needs to be a greater will to work toward mutual “cross functional objectives”, he concludes.