Addressing the skills shortage

The skills gap has been cited as the major threat to productivity in the glass processing sector. Dave Broxton discusses the part that suppliers can play in addressing it.

More than two out of three employers are being affected by a shortage of skilled workers, with three out of five reporting that the skills gap is impacting negatively on productivity. The poll of more than 17,500 businesses nationally, by recruitment company Hays, makes for uncomfortable reading.

It echoes comments made by glass processors at the Bohle Roundtable, held at the end of last year: this skills shortage was cited as a far greater threat to productivity and the sustainability of their businesses than Brexit.

This places a responsibility on all of us to do our bit. At the start of 2018, we have an opportunity to make a positive contribution to skilling-up the sector through knowledge-share.

Understanding processes, and the tools and the products to complete those processes effectively, is key to efficiency.

If, for example, you’re still cutting glass with the same cutting wheel that you have always cut glass with because it’s what you have always done, it’s unlikely that you’re doing so effectively.

We’re committed to working with our customers to supply them with products that allow them to process glass more efficiently. Carbide cutting wheels, for example, cost less than polycrystalline diamond (PCD) wheels, but PCD will last infinitely longer and deliver far better edge quality. When you consider the downtime required to change cutting wheels, PCD cutting wheels will usually deliver whole life savings compared to carbide wheels.

These are the invisible costs that are unnecessarily impacting on the productivity of UK glass processors and, by default, their bottom line.

It’s also an example of how Bohle is committed to working with its customers, to understand their needs and to impart knowledge can support them in driving efficiencies through their businesses, through an informal approach.

But we’re also working through more formal routes. In the last year, we have partnered with training provider GQA to develop an NVQ Level 2/Level 3 ‘Introduction to UV bonding’ unit.

This is based on our free customer workshop, with the addition of a series of Q&A and practical assessments. The workshop was fully subscribed throughout the year and will run again throughout 2018; it is completely free to attend.

It includes training on optimum environments for UV bonding, covering everything from room and glass temperature to storage of adhesives. It also explores glass requirements and cleaning to safe manual handling, UV light and equipment, and adhesive application and clamping.

We’re a global leader in UV bonding technologies offering an extensive range of pre-treatments, primers and adhesives, plus an extensive range of UV bonding lamps and clamps.

Product developments, for example the MV760 adhesive – which can withstand a sheer strength load capacity of 25 newtons/mm2 – are supporting our customers in pushing the boundaries of design and generating new opportunities.

Again, it’s not about us telling people what to do but giving them an understanding of the things that they need to know to achieve what they’re trying to do or to do it more effectively.

I don’t see the answer to the skills gap being delivered solely by government. It has a key part to play in delivering the right basic skills set but we can also play our part as manufacturers and suppliers. Trade associations also need to step up and address the topic of training because without doubt it is the most important, long-term issue in our industry.

We will close the skills gap more quickly, if all parties are engaged, if we share expertise, and if we share knowledge. Doing so will deliver new opportunities and sizeable efficiencies, reducing unseen costs and putting the foundations in place for future growth.

Continuing knowledge share is key to our strategy in 2018 and the reason why we remain confident about our continuing growth and that of our customers.