The boss of a rapidly expanding automation and electrical firm says society’s view of engineers has to change to ensure his company and the entire sector can keep growing.
Former Shotton steelworks apprentice Scott Davis bought Delta Rock Group two years ago – and has already seen the Sandycroft-based business grow significantly.
He now plans to double the size of the company – which employs 49 staff – over the next three years, with a particular target of securing more local contracts.
But he has warned that the whole industry could be held back unless the UK’s attitude towards apprentices and engineers changes – citing Germany as a country there where a specialist engineer is on a “par with a surgeon”.
Mr Davis said: “We would like to double the size of the business over three years and that would mean more jobs.
“We are 49-strong at the moment and even at this stage we could do with being around 60. Getting people in can be a struggle, as it is across the UK.
“The apprenticeship scheme has been under-promoted and it is hard to find people to fill those posts.
“A lot of schools are always driving towards higher education without realising that apprenticeships are a valid route.
“As an ex-apprentice myself I am quite passionate about it.
“It is not just in education. I think it is a social problem as well.
“When you think about an engineer compared with a surgeon in this country, they are seen on two different levels.
“The perception of the nation is the engineer in dirty overalls with a rag hanging out of his pocket – historically this is the image that gets conjured up.
“But if you work in Germany the engineer is on par with a surgeon. It’s a perception that the country needs to change, and we as small business owners need to help with that change and drive that, or I can see in 10 years time are we going to be really struggling for quality engineers.
“The amount of people retiring out of the industry and the amount of knowledge being lost is a nightmare. Once that knowledge is gone, it’s gone.”
Since taking over the company he has started taking on apprentices to help address the skill shortage.
He said: “Apprenticeships can’t be seen as a second option if you don’t do well at school – the people we employ are highly skilled and highly trained individuals and certainly command my respect.”
Mr Davis has been re-directing the focus of the business since becoming managing director, and it now offers a complete package with control automation, electrical installation and mechanical processing.
The company has clients in the local area and across the UK and Europe, but is keen to increase the work carried out in North Wales.
Mr Davis said: “A lot of our projects are more than 60 miles away from Sandycroft where we are based but we have Deeside and Wrexham industrial estates on our doorstep and the whole North Wales corridor in an hour’s drive and we do very little work in the area.
“This is money lost to the economy when it could be recycled. We are keen to build relationships with local businesses and keep money in the area.”
He is currently in discussions with the Development Bank of Wales about his future plans for the business.
He said: “I’m excited for the future – there is a lot to do.”