We’ve recently experienced shortages in the UK but the shortage that I’m highlighting has nothing to do with Brexit, Covid-19, climate change, Just In Time supply chain issues or the plight of the great crested newt.
In fact this shortage isn’t new – it’s something that has been gradually eating away at our industry for some time. So what is it?
The simple answer is the shortage of ‘competent mechanical fitters’ – men and women who have the underpinning knowledge, understanding, training and experience to safely assemble bolted flange joints in critical pressurised systems’.
So why is there a shortage?
There is a multitude of answers but the slow decline of engineering apprenticeships since the late 1980’s in the UK has allowed a substantial void to appear within our industry. Add to this an ageing workforce and that void widens year on year.
We now live in a society that has marketed academia and the glory of obtaining a degree (no matter what type of degree) as the modern measure of achievement and our younger ‘smartphone and social media’ generation are a breed apart from those before them in terms of attitude, ambition and aspirations. What will attract a young person into our world of oil refining, chemical production and power generation? What will attract future craftspeople and engineers?
And of course there’s the most serious of concerns – the ‘chancer’. Snaking around the country from turnaround to shutdown to outage to project…earning a good crust on the back of ignorance and incompetence. Getting by with no responsibility or accountability.
In the UK we have a transient labour workforce of approx. 2000 people and from what we have seen (and are continuing to see) out there, the percentage of those that are suitably competent in making bolted flange joints are, in my humble opinion, quite low.
What can we do?
We’ve known about these issues for some time, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise but NOW is the time for change. The giant elephant in the room has now grown up, got married and had kids of his own and it’s about time we acknowledged their presence. It’s only a matter of time until we experience a catastrophic failure on site down to ‘human error’ – maybe only then change will happen? We want to be preventive not reactive!
I believe that it’s about time we started talking to one another – asset owners, mechanical contracting companies, unions, colleges, learning providers, government bodies…we need to come together and start discussing these issues and concerns because one thing is certain – if we leave it any longer, things WILL GET A LOT WORSE.
I honestly don’t know how we can do this. I have my own ideas but I would love to hear from you. I’m more than willing to listen and discuss – whether on Linkedin, a face to face meeting or other means.
Contact me anytime to discuss;