A recent report into falling unemployment rates in the North West prompted BBC North West Tonight to visit the joineryworkshop.com headquarters in Stockport. Reporter Stuart Flinders spoke to our MD, Rob Dixon, about the latest figures, and whether or not they accurately reflect what’s going on…
NW unemployment figures
2012 = 335,000 (9.5%)
2016 = 174,000 (4.9%)
Whilst the figures suggest fewer people are unemployed in the region compared to four years ago, a very real problem facing joineryworkshop.com and other small businesses is the struggle to find, and retain, skilled workers. Like any small business, joineryworkshop.com are trying to grow, but are finding, in reality, that it’s actually difficult to fill vacancies.
“If we advertise for an apprentice, we might get ten applications.” says Rob. “We offer interviews to everybody, half turn up, two we might recruit, and one would leave within the first few weeks. It’s hard work! And for small businesses in particular, the kind of resources that need to be put into the recruitment process can be time consuming and ineffective. Something needs to change.”
The figures are, of course, welcomed at Job Centres. They’re part of a recent trend that suggests that more and more people, particularly women, are finding work. Job Centre statistics show over the course of the last year an additional 63,000 people have gone into work. This is consistent across the whole of the region and is a positive story but there are still a lot of vacancies out there.
Quality of jobs is the latest concern facing employment. Over the last few years there has been a real shift in the labour market from full time, permanent positions to part time, short term and self-employment positions and that’s a major concern in terms of people’s protections at work.
Employment figures may be improving but the unions and businessmen like Rob agree that more needs to be done to improve the skills of those looking for work. Finding the right apprentices and skilled joiners to meet the demands of a growing order book of a successful SME is the biggest challenge facing the labour market.
Rob believes with so much emphasis on academia, the skills gap in the UK is widening. He admires the approach of the Germans who place equal respect on vocational training as on a university education.
Joineryworkshop.com offers an apprenticeship programme to provide training in bench, site, restoration joinery and painting. By engaging and working with local colleges, the business is also investing in young people in the area and preserving historical heritage buildings for future generations, both of which are highly important values at joineryworkshop.com.
Watch the BBC North West Tonight feature here: