Written By: Malcolm Newman – KCTS Consultant
Last week was national apprentice week in the UK. There were some exciting events and announcements about developing skills for young people in industry. There were new courses from universities and employers like British Airways, BAE Systems, Jaguar Land Rover Group and Nisan announcing new schemes and commitment to training.
At the same time we are hearing that there are major skills gaps in some industries. In engineering there is a wave of people who joined the industry 40 years ago are moving towards retirement.
This all reminds me of the need to keep a regular review of our skills requirements against those available in the operation.
As technology develops and business demands change skills planning is a fundamental business practice, one that is often forgotten or overlooked in the pressure to balance short term targets and costs. Whether you are running a small section or a global business; you must ensure you have the correct range of skills to deliver your business plan.
This is for the higher level planning but then we look at the specific skills needed to ensure we deliver products and services safely, on quality, on time and on cost.
A skills’ planning matrix and some advanced thought can make all the difference to business performance. Making sure you have more than just someone who can do the job; you need to have 3 people who can currently do the job and one of them who can train others to do the task. This is based on the assumption that your regular person is on holiday, the number 2 calls in sick but you still have the number 3 available who can do the task. You may have to do some juggling but the job can be done effectively.
Another benefit of having different people do the job is they can all bring different knowledge to the process and help drive the improvement process. All of this assumes you have standardised work instructions in place for training and as a platform for continuous improvement.
I remember visiting a production area and the supervisor pointing out with pride an assembler who was so good that when she was off work they needed 2 people to do her job! That was not relevant to my visit but later reflecting on this I wondered what made her so much more effective? Was she just super human or we did not understand her skill. She had developed a method that the business had not understood, captured and then trained others to the same standard. If they did that the job could continue to be run at the same cost, even when our super person is on holiday.
By keeping your team flexible and up to date on skills, it helps you understand and develop the overall skills in the organisation. Individuals can grow and develop skills as part their normal work. As new technologies are introduced the team learns and develops with it. You are not vulnerable to specific people as you know you have the skills available to operate safely and produce good products effectively. That’s one less thing to worry about then!