Responses from Businesses
Report Segment: Business Feedback
40 telephone interviews were also undertaken with engineering/energy companies across the two counties: 3 interviews were with companies whose address was given as outside the region; the others were located across New Anglia as shown below:
Snapshot of telephone responses carried out in February:
40% of companies had heard of Hethel Engineering Centre but 85% had never visited.
5% of companies had heard of Skills for Energy.
30% of companies thought a new pipe fitting in the course could be useful but when asked if their company would commit to a course there were only 2 positive responses.
One third of companies expected to be involved in new energy contracts in the region.
Almost 30% of companies expected to grow in the coming years.
The intention was to contact a wide variety of companies from across the New Anglia area in order to get a balanced view, representative of the sector as a whole.
Summary of Responses
Awareness of Hethel Engineering Centre
- Most of the companies (60%) in the survey have never heard of HEC or know what they do and there were a number of misconceptions about the organisation from those who had heard of them./p>
Awareness of Skills for Energy
- Four companies knew the name “Skills for Energy” but admitted they were not sure what it was about.
- None of the companies interviewed had thought about a centre of excellence for engineering or energy skills, but most thought it was a good idea although had no idea how it could work.
Energy sector awareness
- Some engineering companies did not see themselves as connected to the energy sector even though they agreed that they did a substantial amount of work for companies who were in the energy sector.
Skills Gaps and Shortages
- Of the companies contacted only two said they were looking to increase their workforce and would be looking for fully qualified engineers. The CVs they had seen so far seemed to suggest that there were “some good people available”.
- Of those interviewed, 6 thought a pipe fitting course was a good idea but only 2 thought they could commit to sending staff on such a course.
- An appreciation of skills gaps and skills provision was sometimes difficult to ascertain because a number of local companies in the energy sector have all the Head Office operations elsewhere in the country (e.g. Aberdeen) and so, when it comes to skills there is a disconnect between the local staff in Norfolk & Suffolk and the ideas of the HR department in another part of the country who displayed little knowledge about local skills provision.
- Several commented that the Apprenticeships on offer have little value. There was one comment about SEMTA's qualification framework being out of date and not useful. Some have resorted to writing their own three year apprenticeship programme (e.g the engineering apprenticeship involving Hethel, Eagit and City College – see SNF Engineering Skills Report - part of this series).
- None of the respondents thought there was a skills shortage and one company commented on the surplus numbers of people available.
- Some companies do all their training in-house and have little interest in local training provision.
Perceptions of FE & HE
- Business views of FE and HE are mixed – but on the whole there is a consistent lack of understanding about the role of colleges and universities in supporting the sector.
Optimism about the Future
- Several companies said that they see turnover being flat over the coming year, but expected the energy sector in the region to expand.
- Very few companies were directly involved in export but several were supplying businesses in the region who then go on to export the complete product.
- Although there was generally a great sense of optimism for energy engineering in the region this was coupled with concerns about their ability to get involved.
- Two companies were running their operations down as they were finding trading too hard at present.