A longstanding advocate for addressing skills shortages in the plastics sector, Jo Davis, operations director at injection moulding firm Broanmain Plastics has joined the British Plastics Federation’s Education & Skills Committee. Jo was also approached by the BPF to join the plastic industry’s Trailblazer Group for the Level 4 Manufacturing Engineering Technician Standard. Several other companies have subsequently followed her lead, joining the steering group that is helping to define future apprenticeship standards for the sector.
“With skills shortages in the plastics workforce not confined to one particular level or area, it’s critical that standards for apprenticeships and work-based training are occupation led and cater to our future needs and succession plans,”emphasises Jo. “If we want to attract specific knowledge, skills and behaviours to our future workforce, businesses have the opportunity to take ownership and provide input to the standards as they are being developed.”
Jo has repeatedly called for greater diversity and a need to address the stigma that careers in plastics engineering hold little potential or allure. These are key topics she’s eager to champion through being involved in both BPF initiatives.
“The plastics industry is changing so rapidly that schools, colleges and universities are frequently uninformed about the emerging roles and exciting career pathways. There are perceptions of engineers only wearing overalls, doing repetitive tasks and working in less appealing environments. In reality, the plastics industry needs people with a whole range of skill sets, from STEM ability to artistic and creative talents, who can make a real difference,” comments Jo.
In order to be a trailblazer you have to feel comfortable challenging convention and pushing the parameters from shop floor to boardroom, accepts Jo. In the last few years Broanmain has done just that. By adopting a fresh approach to recruitment, reward and recognition, training and development and succession planning, Jo hopes that other firms might benefit from emulating elements of their strategy. She explains:“Many UK moulding companies seek experienced people and, in the face of a skills gap, this can make recruitment and retention of staff quite challenging. By contrast, where there is an opportunity to appoint enthusiastic people that fit our culture and acknowledge their contribution, Broanmain has observed tangible business improvements.”
Founder of the family run business, Wilf Davis, is chairman of the BPF Moulders and Specialist Processors Group.