The need for highly skilled professionals in the UK precision engineering sector and UK manufacturing is well documented. The impact of COVID-19 hit the engineering industry hardest and as many as 85% of firms have noticed the engineering skills gap has yet to be closed.
In a skills survey from the Institution of Engineering and Technology, almost half of engineering businesses said they were experiencing difficulties in recruiting the right talent-levels.
Taking a proactive approach to closing the gap
At Kirkstall Precision Engineering there has always been a proactive approach to ensuring the business has the right skills to maintain a reputation for excellence across a wide range of verticals. This proactive approach is driven largely because both leaders of the business, Managing Director Iqbal Bahia, and CEO Adam Thornton, started their careers off as apprentices.
Talking about this, CEO Adam Thornton commented that: “Our decision to now have 7 apprentices in the business is about us investing in youth, the long-term future of the business, ensuring skills are passed down and both Iqbal and I started off as apprentices and we are looking for the qualities in our new recruits that both Iqbal and I felt we had at their age.”
Unearthing the talent with the right qualities
The journey to finding young people with the right qualities and a passion for engineering began in early 2022. After undertaking a SWOT analysis that looked at all aspects of the business it was discovered that there were multiple areas where there would be a future skills shortage.
As a result, it was decided that now was the time to make the significant financial investment to ensure valuable skills could be passed to a new generation. Talking about the recruitment process, Iqbal Bahia commented that: “We had a meticulous selection and interview process. This began in February at The Leeds Apprentice Recruitment Fair at the First Direct Arena, with assistance from the Leeds Manufacturing Festival. We received over 50 CVs from this event, which formed part of our Stage 1 selection process.
At Stage 2 we partnered with University Technology College (UTC) Leeds and spent a whole day on their campus interviewing their best candidates and selecting these for the next stage.
For Stage 3 we contacted Leeds City College (LCC) where the potential apprentice candidates would be studying on day release to sit an evaluation test to determine if they could meet the college’s entry requirements.
Stage 4 involved the final interviews and factory tour at Kirkstall Precision, where we were able to identify four excellent candidates. These new candidates would join our existing third year apprentices to create our largest ever apprentice work force in the business’ history and fill all the seats available on our new apprentice training program. To be able to fulfil this is something the entire business is proud of, and we are excited about the youth, passion, and energy that all our apprentices will bring to our business and customers.”
Iqbal Bahia expressed his thanks to everyone at UTC, LCC, Leeds LEP and The Leeds Manufacturing Festival for all their help and support, it has been greatly appreciated.
Investing in a strong talent pipeline to help secure our future and offer the best service to our customers
The business is fully aware of the responsibility it has in ensuring the seven apprentices are given the best personal support and opportunities. This is paramount for the success of the apprentice training programme. Commenting on this, Iqbal Bahia said: “Both Adam and I are making a personal commitment to all our apprentices. Adam is spending one day a week every week with them to pass on his technical knowledge and I myself will be giving them time to pass on my systems knowledge. In addition, we have a robust programme that they will follow to guarantee their contribution in a positive way to the wide range of precision engineering projects that we take on.”