Valves industry chief calls for more focus on training existing workforce
29 Nov 2018
Valve and actuator businesses employ 9,000 people and the industry contributes £3bn to the UK economy each year. The battle to attract new recruits is important but it must not distract companies from developing the potential of the staff they have already, cautions the BVAA’s Colin Findlay...
The Government-led 2018 Year of Engineering initiative did good work to highlight and address the 20,000 annual shortfall in graduate engineers. However, attracting young people to the profession isn’t enough in itself. There’s also an urgent need to tackle an impending leadership age gap in many engineering disciplines.
The British Valve and Actuator Association believes purposeful investment in young professionals could play a critical role addressing this issue. It’s time to get more proactive about the strategic development of existing talent - especially people in the 20-to-30 age group. This should go beyond core practical skills to cover areas such as leadership, networking and horizon scanning.
Inter-industry collaboration can play an important role. When young people have a broader awareness of an industry, it enables them to take a more constructive approach to career progression. This means they make better decisions and have a clearer perspective on the opportunities that will benefit them individually. Over time, they also make a more valuable contribution to the industry at large.
Leading by examples
Since 2015, the BVAA has led a Future Leaders Programme to nurture promising young people employed by valve and actuator businesses in the UK, and bridge the gap between ‘older leaders’ and ‘future leaders’. Participants are nominated by their employers and commit to a demanding schedule that takes them out of their comfort zone to develop new skills and extend their professional network.
We’ve created a neutral platform where businesses can put their competitive differences to one side and collaborate to tackle the leadership crisis
Monthly personal development sessions focus on areas ranging from presentation and networking skills to emotionally intelligent leadership and team alignment. Each participant also coordinates and hosts an educational event supported by their employer, so the entire cohort learns more about the wider industry. This year’s events ranged from a tour of Stanlow Refinery to witnessing cryogenic testing of LNG valves and an introduction to the 5S workplace organisation methodology.
This year’s Future Leaders recently graduated, and it has been great to see them stepping up to take on new challenges. We need to galvanise and empower people in their 20s and 30s, so that they’re ready to lead British industry into a successful future. That means giving them opportunities to expand their horizons, and to truly understand the depth and breadth of the industries they work in. It’s difficult to achieve this when they’re shackled to the workplace. But it can be achieved in collaboration with other businesses, when time and space is created for them to explore the wider potential and relevance of their industry.
In the Future Leaders Programme, we’ve created a neutral platform where businesses can put their competitive differences to one side and collaborate to tackle the leadership crisis. Three years in, we’re already seeing benefits and the industry will be stronger, healthier and more resilient as a result.
After graduation, participants become mentors to the incoming Future Leaders Programme cohort. And regular reunions arranged by the BVAA give them the opportunity to continue cultivating their professional network.
Colin Findlay is chairman of the British Valve and Actuator Association