On the 29th of June, Matt Tipper, Stewart Andrews and I had a swing of the clubs at Priory Breadsall in Derby. A week later, on the 6th of July, I attended the Summer Gathering in central Birmingham. Two entirely different events, seven days apart, both hosted by The National Association of Steel Service Centres (NASS).
Comton Group have been members of NASS since 2019 and after the recent appointment of Ian Darby as Managing Director we’ve had renewed interest in this association.
This was the first time I’d attended the Summer Gathering. At the top of The Cube and against the backdrop of the city centre the meeting kicked off with a long product market update. Russian exports and Turkish imports were of particular interest as were quotas and pricing with lots of the discussion focussing on forecasting and inflation.
Conversation in the room was free flowing; business owners who compete in a shared market space were all discussing issues affecting their businesses which revealed many commonalities.
Recruitment generated more conversation than any other topic. Apprenticeships were discussed, in particular the challenges of attracting a new generation of talent into the sector. Salaries and particular skills shortages such as welding were also hot topics of conversation.
We talk about recruitment challenges like this everyday at Comton Group. Globally, the working landscape has changed: COVID created flexible working arrangements that people wish to continue to integrate into their lives. Minimum wage rises and inflation have led to higher salaries. As well as these issues, our sector has additional challenges in attracting new people. Without good PR, steel is not seen as an attractive career choice. After leaving school or university, potential apprentices and graduates are exploring opportunities in areas that they see as less physically demanding with better working conditions, security, prospects, and perks. Mike’s article touches on some of this in his Q2 recruitment article*
Following a summary of the UK market, with particular focus on wages and energy, Richard’s presentation moved purposefully to the most pressing issue we face in the UK: we do not have a clear industrial strategy to support our steel industry. This puts the UK industry at a huge disadvantage when compared with other nations.
The USA has “directed nearly $370 billion over the next decade to rapidly scale up renewable energy production and drive substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”
Check out the full article here
At the same time, the EU will put funding in place to support the manufacturing sector. The UK is lagging behind in its decarbonisation funding. Around £300 million has been offered to Tata Steel UK for decarbonisation, but this falls far short of what will be required.
Henrick Adam Chairman of Tata Steel UK said “Other nations are pouring billions of pounds into our competitors, and they give support with energy costs.”
To read the full article BBC article click here
A lengthy Q&A followed Richard’s presentation, and the event continued in this manner throughout the afternoon. Other speakers included representatives from the Bank of England, the BSCA and CBI, and I spoke about Social Media for Metal Businesses.
Here’s the link for my presentation
The information given out was superb; relevant, topical and useful for everyone who attended. The event was of fantastic value, not least because the discussions that followed each presentation created space for delegates to share thoughts, experiences and delve more into the issues presented. I’ll be sure to be back for the next one.
The week prior I caught up with Ian Darby after we’d both finished our 27 holes at the NASS golf day. After a short conversation about how poorly we’d both played, I asked him to outline the agenda for NASS. He said that their goals can be broken down into five areas:
- Return membership to the previous levels
- Work closely with ISTA to help increase apprenticeships in the industry
- Help members understand green steel and the legislation surrounding this
- Continue creating valuable events for our members
- Listen to members to develop the association in line with their requirements.