Firms keen to retain their skilled staff, summit told
MANUFACTURERS may have seen a drop in output and orders but there has not been a comparative loss of jobs, a business summit has heard.
The Manufacturing Outlook Briefing heard that employment levels at factories were not dropping dramatically despite the double dip recession and the worst trading conditions for three years.
The meeting was called by manufacturers' organisation EEF to discuss results of a survey produced in conjunction with accountants and business advisers BDO LLP.
Details of the survey were reported in The Herald yesterday, but the summit, held in Exeter and involving major manufacturers from Devon including Plymouth, discussed particulars in depth.
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And although the survey indicated recruitment intentions had slowed with no companies in the South West indicating they increased jobs in the past quarter, Phil Brownsord, EEF's South West director, said the jobs situation was a "positive", alongside investment intentions.
He said firms were keen to maintain levels of skilled workers, for instance engineers, despite a slump in work, because such staff are not easily recruited.
He said it was difficult for firms to "get hold of good-quality skilled people", and those in the market were therefore in a strong position.
"That skills set is so precious; it's the last thing they want to let go," he said.
But he also told the meeting there was another reason staffing levels were being maintained and said: "Firms are pragmatic enough to know that maybe the picture is not a gloomy as painted.
"Whilst there's no growth there's not a massive contraction. There are still sales."
Mr Brownsord also said SMEs were taking on staff and added: "We have found it's the small firms looking to recruit. They have been recruiting of late."
David Jeffries, managing director of Barnstaple-based engineering firm J+S, told the meeting: "We went up 15 people to 135 over two years. We held it constant for the past nine months but are recruiting at the moment and expecting to be at 140 by the end of this year and budgeting for 150 by the end of next year."
He said the increase was in business development, marketing and research and development but "shop floor is fairly static".
And he added: "We are recruiting two or three graduates, but it's not that easy to get them."
Mr Brownsord's suggestion of a recruitment event for SMEs met with approval.
And Michael Cusack, managing director of Plymouth-based, £8.5million-turnover lubrication firm Interlube, said: "We work closely with Plymouth University. They are very good."