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Wales Manufacturing Boom at Risk Unless Brain Drain is Halted

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The continued success of manufacturing in Wales hangs in the balance unless something concrete is done to halt the so-called ‘brain drain’, says the MD of one of the country’s biggest manufacturing success stories.

Martyn Ingram, Managing Director of Morgan GRP, the parent company of security housings manufacturer Morgan Marine Ltd, has warned of grave consequences for Welsh manufacturing unless high calibre graduates, specialist engineers and manufacturing personnel can be kept ‘in-house’, in Wales.

The narrative surrounding Welsh manufacturing has been a positive one in recent months, with, most recently, the news that Aston Martin might be offered land to build its new SUV at St Athan, and that General Dynamics will bring assembly of its new armoured vehicles from Spain to Merthyr Tydfil.

Mirroring this, Morgan GRP are continuing to enjoy steady and impressive growth. In recent years they have been recognised within the Top 100 Companies in South West Wales, 15th in the Top 50 Most Profitable Companies in Wales and most recently the company was listed as one of only two Welsh firms within the prestigious Sunday Times Profit Track 100.

Their most recent figures showed a turnover of £21 million and they employ 243 staff at their site in Llandybïe.

According to manufacturing organisation the EEF’s Regional Outlook report, they are part of a wider success story – manufacturing employs 157,000 people in Wales, with the food, drink and transport sectors all performing well.

The report found that between 2010 and 2014 the number of jobs in the sector increased by 15 percent.

However, Mr Ingram warns that the story on the ground is more nuanced.

“It is true that Wales has much to be proud of when it comes to manufacturing – this country is a powerhouse of manufacturing and engineering. Firms and universities in Wales are developing advanced materials for the defence, aerospace and automotive industries at advanced manufacturing facilities.

“However, finding quality new recruits who have plans to pursue a career in Wales is a big issue and it is something which needs to be addressed by the Welsh Government as a matter of urgency. We carry out an annual graduate recruitment drive and we are very serious about giving our staff the best quality training – we are an attractive prospect for an employee.

“We have an enviable record regarding staff retention – our personnel enjoy working for us. Many have stayed with us from their early days on the shop floor, working their way up to management level. But finding new staff to join us is proving difficult.

“We have been advertising for senior staff in Production and in Sales for three months and we have been disappointed with the calibre of the response we’ve had. And we know anecdotally that manufacturing and engineering specialists and graduates are heading elsewhere to pursue careers. That can't fail to have a damaging affect upon the Welsh economy and I believe it will make the current golden period for manufacturing in Wales unsustainable in the long term.”

Recently the EEF warned that Wales could face a gaping hole in its manufacturing workforce, with companies struggling to fill 8,000 posts by 2018, even though Wales shows stronger manufacturing growth than anywhere else in the UK.

Mr Ingram said: “If Wales is to continue being a manufacturing success story the brain drain must be halted.”