Skills shortages prompt rail world-beater to ‘grow its own’

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World-beating railway maintenance equipment manufacturer Mechan has decided to ‘grow its own’ skilled staff after a five- month search for a mechanical design engineer failed to turn up any suitable candidates.

The Sheffield-based firm, whose products include lifting jacks capable of suspending a complete train, has seen sustained growth across its core rail business in recent months.

Recent successes include shipping a set of 30 tonne lifting jacks to New Zealand’s largest freight and passenger rail operator, KiwiRail. Managing director Richard Carr said: “The main problem we have at the moment is recruiting skilled people.

“We’ve been looking for a mechanical design engineer since Christmas.

“We can’t just ignore this issue or hope that someone solves it for us. Instead, we’ve decided to invest in two apprentices that will start in September; it’s time to grow our own.”

Mr Carr says Darnall-based Mechan’s experience of increasing demand fuelling the need for more staff fits in with the results of the recent ‘MAS Barometer’survey of manufacturing industry by the Manufacturing Advisory Service.

The survey by the Government-backed organisation, set up to help manufacturers become more competitive and grow, showed that manufacturers across Yorkshire and Humber were boosting sales, creating jobs and investing more.

“The Barometer reinforces what we are seeing in our own business and across other suppliers and partners,” said Mr Carr.

“Eighty per cent of our sales head into the rail sector and we have a relatively full order book at the moment with even more opportunities in the pipeline.

“We are already getting ready to deliver projects in 2013 and beyond.”