BFPA 2024 Yearbook & Members' Directory 2024

Skills It is widely recognised that the fluid power industry suffers from a skills shortage. This is typically because it’s not seen as the most exciting industry. If young people are interested in pursuing a career in engineering, it’s often because they want to work in Formula One or aerospace. However, I think one of the reasons there is not as much interest is because of a general lack of awareness about fluid power, its many applications and how important it is in so many walks of life in one form or another. We may never be able to compete with the profile of F1, but I believe the industry needs to be better promoted in schools and colleges. When I started my career as an apprentice, I did a two-week hydraulics course in a classroom, plus a couple of practical exercises on a test rig. Essentially, that was my only insight into a career in fluid power. At that stage, I wasn’t aware that there was a whole world of hydraulics out there, with the technology being applied in a number of exciting areas. Furthermore, the industry can be very interesting, whether you become involved in building bridges and other large structures, or aerospace or a raft of smaller projects. So, I think the main problem for our industry is we simply don’t promote it as well as we could do and point out just how appealing it could be to young people looking to choose a lifelong career. Apprenticeships Instead of seeking ready-trained people, it is good to see that a considerable number of companies in the UK are ‘growing their own’ fluid power engineers and workers through engaging with initiatives such as university graduate sponsorship and apprenticeship schemes. This has always been important to IMH. We took on our very first apprentice in 1995, and since then we’ve developed the careers of 28 apprentices. We always aim to have at least one apprentice in training. However, in times of rapid growth, as is currently the case, we have three, with one other having just completed his apprenticeship. We partner with Hartlepool College of Further Education and give presentations to students at the college to tell them about IMH and the opportunities we offers to the right candidates. This is how one of our current apprentices, Josh Bearby, joined us. Our manufacturing manager gave a presentation to the students, and this sparked Josh’s interest. Josh is currently in his third year of study as a Maintenance & Operations Engineering Technician apprentice and is currently working towards his NVQ Level 3. Although he is only in his third year, he has already started his HNC at college. The HNC will be completed by the time his apprenticeship finishes. However, we already have plans to move him on to a degree level apprenticeship. So, his tasks currently are a hybrid between workshop and office-based roles. The workshopbased tasks are to ensure he gets plenty of hands-on experience while also carrying out some engineering tasks with the engineering team in the office where he is involved in design projects. In fact, Josh is currently leading on the design of a test rig that will incorporate Industry 4.0 technology, which can be used for predictive maintenance. Digital transformation Digitally transformative technologies can play an important part within our industry – everything from the industrial internet of things (IIoT) from a machine control and monitoring perspective, and Industry 4.0 and its connectivity capabilities, through to machine learning and even AI. At IMH, we have a major digital improvement strategy as part of our continuous improvement regime, and we are pushing ourselves increasingly in the direction of Industry 4.0. We see the technology having a strong place in the future of the industry and can help to entice young people into a career in engineering. However, I don’t think it will be an easy journey of adoption – but by showing examples of it working in practice I’m sure we’ll get there. In terms of Industry 4.0 and its benefits regarding, for example, predictive maintenance, we have already started out on this journey. As the internal test rig that we are designing and building will Young people need to be more aware of our exciting industry and what it has to offer 44 By James Griffiths, Managing Director, IMH. James Griffiths: “We may never be able to compete with the profile of F1, but I believe the industry needs to be better promoted in schools and colleges.”