Skills Gap Answer in Grassroots, Says Engineering Firm; Learning Curve: Frederick Woolley Helping Workforces across the Region

Article excerpt

Talk to the directors of West Midlands firm Frederick Woolley about the skills gap and the lack of engineers in manufacturing and they will say the answer is to tackle the industry's problems at the grassroots.

That is why the company has a learning centre which is not only used for the upskilling and the process development of its own staff but for the workforces of customers and other factories in the region.

After 68 years in existence, Frederick Woolley is still a family business based in Hockley, Birmingham, employs 160 staff and exports its presswork and welded and cable assemblies to the automotive, agricultural and office industries in France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Germany and Japan.

Through managing director Robert Woolley, the company, a leading member of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has built up its portfolio of exports in the last couple of years because of the pressures of diversity and competition in the UK.

'We've always specialised in the difficult, high-quality and awkward engineering work and that's what we still do,' said Mr Woolley.

'The West Midlands has the best engineers in the country by far and we need to make sure that that continues to be so.'

Shirley Woolley, Robert's wife and a director of the company, is behind the learning centre.

'We base our success as a company on the engineering skills of our workforce. We're not training people here -they are learning,' she said.

'When staff come from other companies they not only learn the theory in the centre but can see the practical side in our factory. …