Make it in Great Britain Industry Champion – Rob Kemp

Rob Kemp - Kemp Sails

Rob Kemp
Managing Director, Kemp Sails Ltd

How has your company helped improve the image of manufacturing?

Kemp Sails has tried very hard to engage with young people and the community. We approached the British Marine Federation, whom we have been a member of for the past 26-years, to ascertain whether the Federation had an existing training syllabus for sailmakers which complied with the Government’s Apprenticeship Initiative. They responded in the negative but introduced us to Paragon Training Services.

We had several meetings with this company but again it was eventually confirmed that our industry did not fit into any of their specific training boxes. This news made us take stock.

Kemp Sails is a successful and relatively small family run business employing 26 people – their ages range from early-20s to a number who are well past normal retirement age. We therefore decided to advertise for and employ two young trainee sailmakers, one male and one female, and this arrangement is working very well for us as these trainees receive “on the job” training as they move from one process to another.

At Kemp Sails we feel strongly that the future of our industry lies with dedicated and enthusiastic young people coming into the business at ground level, learning the trade, gaining valuable experience and, hopefully, remaining in the industry so that they, in turn, can impart their knowledge to others.

What have you personally done to improve youth engagement with manufacturing?

I left school at sixteen and a half (I was unable to obtain an official apprenticeship) and joined a local firm of sailmakers as a trainee with one day off for further studies. I received an excellent grounding in the art of both manufacturing and selling sails.

I was passionate about sailmaking and my dream was to establish my own business which I achieved in 1985 at the ripe old age of 20, using what I’d learned as a trainee.

My father David (the company chairman) went through a student apprenticeship scheme with a London-based engineering company and gained Chartered Engineer status at the end of his training/studies. So you can see that, as one of the Government’s ‘Industry Champions’, Kemp Sails is really focused on encouraging and training young people.