Select Committee on Work and Pensions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120 - 126)



  120. Have you had any contact since the Task Force report?
  (Mr Kirby) I am not personally aware of any since the Task Force report.

Mr Joyce

  121. Could you quickly take me through how you ensure that the skills mix and skills base within your organisation is kept fit for purpose and how you might add value for people to move on to other competences?
  (Mr Kirby) Firstly, within the Task Force we did carry out a comprehensive skills review of the workforce on the Clyde. I think you also need to take into account the fact that we have inherited many different things, including a skills mix and the people we have in the two yards. As part of that review, shortfalls in skills requirements over the next ten years and surpluses in certain skills were shown. The task that we have now taken upon ourselves really is to look for where we can make up the shortfalls, where we can retrain and redeploy people. Indeed, we have undertaken a quite significant training programme that is currently running, for example, to retrain people with steel worker skills to become qualified electricians and people with steel worker skills to become qualified draughtspeople. That programme is costing, with some support from the Scottish Executive, round about three-quarters of a million pounds. That addresses some of the issues. We also look to see how we can bring young people into the business and indeed one thing we were very clear on last year was that even though we had a huge problem of downsizing the business, we did commit to taking young people into the business. Indeed, this year we are taking more apprentices in than we did last year, for example. We are taking graduates into the business. We cannot make the mistake that happened in the early Nineties when shipbuilding simply stopped recruiting young people, stopped apprentice training. For the lifeblood of the business, we do need to inject young people in and we are endeavouring to do that. It is something you cannot change overnight. You obviously have a demographic profile for a workforce and a skills requirement. It takes time to work those things through. The Task Force was a very useful opportunity to bring in additional views on how we should do that. Certainly that was probably one of the key areas in the report that did influence the way we are now doing that retraining of people on the Clyde.

  122. Have you increased trainers or people who conduct training analyses and so forth? Do you contract that out or is that paid for by the public purse?
  (Mr Kirby) With the exception of some help from the Task Force, those specifics I mentioned earlier, all training is primarily funded in-house. There are grants and support as you would expect but primarily it is internally funded. We use all of those, our in-house people, local colleges and external contracted out agencies.

  123. The Task Force report refers to external qualifications. It would be quite useful to know how much upskilling is going on. Has there been any increase in the last short while in terms of the size of the workforce which has some kind of validated external qualification?
  (Mr Kirby) I do not have the statistics as to whether here has been an increase but certainly it is something we need to encourage. Especially on the Clyde, attracting good young people into shipbuilding is not easy to do, as we all understand because of the historic factors. We do encourage giving that sort of opportunity as a mechanism and making it attractive to people. We have people doing sponsored degrees, for example, and sponsored HFEs within Glasgow universities.

Mr Lyons

  124. Mr Kirby, I was interested in your comments about retraining, in particular of apprentices. One of your trade union colleagues in evidence to us said that the number of apprentices BAE SYSTEMS are proposing for this year is shocking and that there has been a reduction in the last few years. Is that accurate?
  (Mr Kirby) I think you will find that comment was made around some early data. We are recruiting more apprentices this year than we have in recent years. I think you will find off-line that we can take you through the statistics.

Mr Robertson

  125. To follow on from that, the statistics I have show that you have agreed to take on 50 and then 30 and now it is down to 20. Can I emphasise that not everybody is a university graduate. There are a lot of good people, particularly round about the area of the yards, who leave school and are looking for jobs and modern apprenticeships are very important. We need this commitment, not just from yourself but from the Government and others. Can we get this number back up to 50 and get these modern apprentices into the business as they will be the future of your company?
  (Mr Kirby) I think the number, for the record, is 35. It is really an issue of having to bring people into the business; we also have to look at retraining the skills mix we have in the business. It is all part of the same solution, getting the right skills for the next ten years. Certainly we fully support the view that we need to take young people into the business, not just graduates but skilled people who will be our lifeblood in the future.
  (Mr Phillipson) We have consistently in recent years taken 30 to 40 apprentices and we are doing that again this year. This is at craft level. To underline your point, we fully appreciate that the vast majority of our workforce are not university graduates, and long may it continue because I do not see too many university graduates doing some of the jobs we need done.


  126. You will be glad to know that we have now reached the last question. Could you give us a quick assessment of the future of employment in shipbuilding on the Clyde as you see it?
  (Mr Phillipson) Basically the outlook has not changed from what we explained to the Task Force. At the moment, we are close to our final decisions about the ending of the redundancy programme that we started some time ago. In the next few weeks, we will finally remove the uncertainty for the people who are waiting for final decisions. We are very near the final decision on closing that particular programme, which had a total of 1,000 in it. Beyond that, the outlook is very much as we described to the Task Force. It very much depends on the success we have or do not have in winning other business, in particular some export programmes and the aircraft carrier, which are key to our longer term future. There is nothing different from that. Work load forecasts were presented in the Task Force report. That continues to be a reasonably accurate view of the long-term future.

  Chairman: Gentlemen, can I thank you very much for coming this morning and for your full and frank answers. These will be very useful to the Committee when we come to making our report.

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