Published On: Tue, Nov 23rd, 2021

Investing in youth is this industry’s saviour

Dr Sachin Saigal, Avocet Hardware Group’s Managing Director, discusses how Avocet are developing the next generation of workers through apprenticeship schemes

Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, COVID19 and now simply COVID. The name seems to have reduced but the impact on our industry is continuing to grow. Let’s face it, the sector is in a tailspin over rising material costs, problematic supply chain issues and hugely inflated freight costs. Demand doesn’t look like dropping any time soon, but having the materials needed to satisfy the need, is a daily issue. These issues are well publicised and not really news to any of us…we’re all living it right now.

But there has been another problem brought about by the pandemic that has also created its own kind of havoc that doesn’t seem to get as much air time – a simple lack of skilled labour. We are experiencing the worst labour shortage since 1997 and the knock-on effects are huge. The effects of the pandemic allied to Brexit has seen a sharp decline in workers especially across the transport and construction sectors. This is impacting the economic recovery that we are desperately looking towards.

Avocet Hardware Group are not immune to these issues but instead of maintaining the status quo, they see this as an opportunity to develop the next generation through apprenticeship schemes. Spearheaded by Managing Director, Dr Sachin Saigal, Avocet Hardware Group have worked with local colleges to implement a stable working environment for apprentices who are looking to learn a trade. With appointments made across various areas of the business, this investment in youth will help safeguard the future of the business as well as creating a new breed of engaged talent. “Apprenticeship schemes are highly valued here at Avocet,” remarked Dr Sachin. “We see the dearth of skilled labour as an opportunity to support the next pool of talent. We have created opportunities for young people within our marketing team, our warehouse and our goods in areas to name but a few. They are all learning valuable skills that will support our business and also teach them important life skills along the way.”

We asked how young people, with no real job experience fit into a well-established business such as Avocet and provide value in a relatively quick period? In reply, Dr Sachin said: “We don’t expect our apprentices to hit the ground running, that’s an unnecessary pressure that wouldn’t help either party. Instead, we look at creating realistic timelines and work with the apprentice, his tutor and the department head of the area they will be working in. We have found that within the first 2-4 weeks, our apprentices are confident enough to start providing noticeable benefit to the business.”

We had an opportunity to speak to one of the apprentices, Zak Hussain, who’s future employment plans revolve around marketing and customer care. “This opportunity to work for a local business in a very busy marketing department has given me first hand experience that I know wouldn’t be available to me in normal circumstances,” remarked Zak. “I’m learning new skills and really enjoying helping my team with day-to-day tasks.”

Dr Sachin has laid out a plan for developing young talent and feels that the industry is missing an opportunity to strengthen for the future and help reboot the economy. Dr Sachin remarks: “We’re seeing sustained labour shortage forcing employers to hike up wages. This just creates its own issues of companies needing to raise prices to accommodate higher wage bills. How does that help rebuild the economy? Apprenticeship schemes are valuable to all involved and will help stabilise this volatile job market we’re currently witnessing.”

“We are also looking into the government backed employee displacement scheme in our efforts to support our local community. We want to help people who have lost their job through no fault of their own, get back into work as soon as possible.”

It’s true that the industry still has some way to go with regards to becoming stable again, but it’s interesting to see how a business such as Avocet, has embraced the challenge and looked towards supporting youth as a mutually beneficial way of helping to safeguard the future and do their small part in rebuilding a struggling economy.