Shipyard seeks foreign workers to fill skills gap
May 21 2008 by Barry Turnbull, Liverpool Daily Post
FAST-GROWING shipyard group Northwest Shiprepairers and Shipbuilders (NSL) has started recruiting foreign workers to plug a skills gap.
The Birkenhead yard, which will shortly return to trading under the Cammell Laird name, has traditionally been able to rely on a supply of skilled shipyard workers from the local commun-ity, but that appears to be changing.
Many of the town’s shipyard workers are near retirement age and this, coupled with a boom in orders, is posing a serious challenge. Many skilled workers left the area when the former Cammell Laird closed in 2001.
NSL, owned by former Cammell Laird managing director John Syvret, has already moved to establish a new apprenticeship programme and has been recruit-ing from Poland to meet demand.
News of the skills shortage came as the company unveiled a record turnover of more than £41m for last year.
In NSL’s latest accounts, Mr Syvret stated: “There is a local and national shortage for skilled tradesmen and management. While the company has been able to manage growth, that is becom-ing increasingly more difficult.
“In addition, a large percentage of the white and blue collar work-force are at or near retirement age and it is becoming increas-ingly difficult to replace them with people of similar experience. That is why the company has been recruiting from overseas and recruiting apprentices.”
However, he emphasised that there was no question that con-tracts would not be fulfilled. He said: “There is no question mark over delivering our contractual obligations. In times of peak demand we have used agencies to recruit foreign workers but this is a short-term solution. We are committed to training local people and in partnership with the Maritime and Engineering College are launching an apprentices programme.”
He said 17 young people would be taken on in June with more in the future.
Earlier this year, Mr Syvret said his shipyard would like to be involved in Ministry of Defence contracts for new aircraft carriers. He added: “If the MoD rang and asked if we could build an aircraft carrier, we would find it a challenge, so would anyone.
“All I will say is we would never take on a contract we could not fulfil.”
In January, NSL revealed a £28m MoD contract expected to secure up to 350 jobs.