A new initiative to attract new blood into the Forklift Truck market, through better opportunities and apprenticeships, was the headline announcement at the BITA (British Industrial Truck Association) AGM on 6 May 2011.
BITA has committed to fund an Industry Apprentice Manager to work with colleges and other trade associations to attract applicants to apprenticeship schemes. The announcement comes at a time when the economic forecast for the industry, presented at the AGM by Oxford Economics, is strong, but the age profile of the engineering sector continues to increase.
BITA Board member Bill Goodwin, Sales Director at Jungheinrich UK, is heading up BITA’s industry recruitment initiative, the Materials Handling Equipment (MHE) Apprenticeship Scheme. He comments: "BITA recognises the importance of attracting young people into our industry and we are committed to working with schools, colleges and the whole industry to improve the opportunities available. Our objective is to provide support and a point of contact between apprentices and operating companies in a bid to increase the number of applicants.
"Excellent resources are already available in the form of training courses for MHE apprenticeships, for example those offered by North Warwickshire & Hinckley College – including the FLTA’s new Vehicle Maintenance & Repairs (Lift Trucks) course which recently received accreditation – and City of Bristol College; plus other colleges offering engineering courses.
"However, the principal issue for our industry is take-up rates. We need to see significant numbers of apprentices joining our sector to replace retiring employees if we want to reverse our current ageing profile. We believe that BITA can help by creating a management link, which does not currently exist, between the large companies and colleges to ensure that they are well enough informed and properly resourced to offer the most appropriate courses."
The next step in implementing this initiative will be recruiting an Industry Apprentice Manager to serve as a single point of quality management and contact with schools, colleges, applicants, operating companies and crucially government funding agencies to ensure swift development and successful running of the scheme.
A crucial aspect of the role will be liaison across the industry – including collaboration with other trade associations where appropriate – and maintaining a public presence via web pages and exhibition attendance. Recruitment will start immediately and BITA has funding agreed to make the appointment as soon as the right candidate is found.
More news from the AGM
Over 50 BITA members and guests attended the AGM, where in addition to news of the Apprenticeship Scheme, Keith Edmonds from Oxford Economics presented the latest BITA economic forecast (The 2011 UK Forklift Truck Market Outlook), US Industrial Truck Association (ITA) President Jeff Rufener provided a North American market update, and Rob Fisher from Quartz Publishing & Exhibitions gave an update on progress with the IMHX 2013 exhibition, for which 60% of stand space is already sold.
According to the Economic Forecast, the UK economy is gradually recovering, with manufacturing, exports and investment taking over as the engines of growth during the next couple of years from traditional economic drivers financial services, construction and consumer and government spending. Firms servicing the manufacturing sector, such as lift-truck manufacturers, are likely to benefit from the upswing.
The Market Outlook also included results from the first qualitative survey of BITA members, indicating that BITA members are overwhelmingly optimistic about general prospects for the UK forklift truck market over the coming 12 months.
BITA President, Tim Waples, said: "The AGM showcased the variety of ways BITA is able to add value to its members. I was delighted to welcome new members and report on ways in which BITA cooperates with other organisations to boost consistent application of best practice. Through our partnerships with international bodies FEM and ITA, as well as our involvement with the IMHX exhibition, we continue to occupy a unique and pivotal place in the materials handling industry in the UK and further afield."
The AGM was followed by the annual BITA charity Ball which this year raised over £3,000 for Breakthrough Cancer UK."