Queen's Award for Enterprise

A Fresh Perspective

Young people lack a work ethic to succeed in industry? Not according to Edward Grainger, director at castings firm Grainger & Worrall who thinks that if given the right support, they bring a fresh perspective and great ideas.

I read with interest the piece on profeng.com last week which carried details of an IMechE survey that reported that 40% of manufacturing firms believed that apprentices and graduates lacked the work ethic to succeed in industry.

I have a different perspective. While it’s easy to look back on grainy images of yesteryear and bemoan today’s youth and its perceived lack of commitment, the young of today bring a whole host of fresh thinking and other attributes to their work. People are now less concerned about the imperatives of yesterday – clothes, food and security are, just about, a given. We’re dealing with a totally different environment, with a new set of priorities.

At Grainger & Worrall we run active apprenticeship and graduate programmes and have new employees with us who have grown up in the modern environment where there is an expectation of immediacy. In fact, modern life has equipped the younger generation with a desire to progress faster than may previously have been the convention. Tapping into this vibrancy and energy is our opportunity.

Indeed, when I look back a generation, a tooling apprenticeship and graduation to a fully-fledged master took 10 years. Now, we’ve got young people, working in an environment with all the necessary support, doing the same job as yesterday but operating in a far smaller time window. So they come with a different philosophy, with shorter timescales – but it is not a bad one!

The question of work ethic is bound up with that of culture at the work place; it’s about inspiring positivity. Indeed, if young employees are engaged, a commitment to work and to delivery for the customer will happen naturally. We’ve got in excess of 200 projects on the go at any one time, so it’s simply not possible for a lack of work ethic to materialise! We try to inspire a commitment to the workplace by bringing people together and getting them working for each other, in small, close-knit teams.

They also get exposure to the end customer, so that they develop a real feel for who as a business we are answerable to, even if that means opening them up to stretching challenges.

However, it’s not about setting our young people up for a fall; as a society, we must support them, even if some youngsters will need pushing more. We must seek to maintain that engaged feeling and instil a pride in a day or week’s work, or the culmination of a project.

We’re lucky in that we see the fruits of our labours very quickly, particularly with our work in R&D and motorsport, but I believe the principle applies across the wider stage of industry.

There needs to be a desire to succeed, out of which comes that pride of achievement, wherever a younger person is working. If you don’t succeed it will hurt, yet a desire for improvement will come from those lessons and that is a key ingredient – as prevalent in this generation as any other.

It’s easy to bemoan the priorities of today’s school and college-leaver – but there is a talent and commitment in abundance there. Of course, there must be foundation blocks of intelligence and tenacity. The hard work ethic comes from the employee but it should be inspired by the working environment provided by the employer. And as an industry, it is up to all of us to provide that support to the next generation.

First Published:http://profeng.com/guest-bloggers/a-fresh-perspective