What goes around…

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell reports from an enlightening debate among glass processing professionals.

Last week I attended the round table hosted by Bohle in London, which brought into sharp focus something that had been previously discussed, but not really taken seriously: that the lack of skilled labour is having an impact on our industry.

It was generally agreed by those around the table that no amount of advanced automation can replace knowledgeable and skilled operatives who know what they are talking about. In fact, one delegate said he believed an over-reliance on machinery could limit the creative flair of customers.

Personally, I believe that the debates surrounding Brexit – both before and after the referendum – has had a dulling effect on the urgency with which we approach otherwise serious matters.

For example, the so-called ‘remainers’ have always said that Brexit could damage our economy because the skilled labour that we rely on to keep some industries and professions operating efficiently will stay away (or be kept away) from the UK.

Since mature debate seems to have been replaced by 160-character streams of vitriol, many people switch off to what they view as scaremongering.

However, the threat of a reduced skilled workforce entering the glass and glazing industry has been looming on the horizon for many years, and (I believe) should be treated as a separate matter from Brexit – in much the same way that we should train enough doctors nurses in the UK, regardless of how many join the NHS from oversees.

The GGF’s Philip Pinnington said that such is the acute nature of the lack of training in the industry, that it actually takes a lot of courage for a company to train its workers because of the risk that they will be poached by a competitor. And in an age of low margins and high input costs, spending that extra money is a difficult choice to make.

Thanks must go to Bohle’s MD Dave Broxton for hosting the event, and we will be returning to themes discussed during the round table debate over the next couple of months, both here and in the magazine.