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Caterpillar looks to AMF to help address sector issues

Helen Hopper, Head of Human Resources at Caterpillar, discusses why the company has become a member of the Advanced Manufacturing Forum (AMF) and why she says the industry must act to address the critical skills shortage.

As the only truly dedicated forum for manufacturing employers in the North East, the AMF is a natural fit for Caterpillar. I have developed a strong working relationship with AMF director, Alan Metcalfe, and the wider team. I see many direct benefits of membership for Caterpillar as a business and the opportunity to influence other, wider issues, that are important to the industry.

Based in Peterlee, we are part of a global organisation that employs greater than 90,000 employees across the globe. We export approximately 65% of our products overseas and demand has remained high throughout 2020/21. Our Peterlee team has remained essential throughout the pandemic.

Caterpillar has a strong culture in place. Many of our senior management team have risen up the ranks and have been with the company for most of their careers. We retain our people by creating the right work climate and culture, promoting flexibility and consistently asking for feedback on how we as a company can continuously improve.

If there is one issue that focusses my attention more than any other, it is attracting and recruiting great talent. Manufacturing has its challenges and Caterpillar is looking to the AMF as the perfect platform to share ideas, brainstorm and collaborate with other manufacturers.

How do we address this?
This will take a targeted approach, with a goal of reaching out to primary schools and informing teachers and children of the wonderful career options within manufacturing. We need youngsters to be aware of this before they begin to choose their options at 12 +. Not everyone has the desire to go to university and our industry has fantastic career progression routes. We need to continue to communicate this in a very purposeful and confident manner.

Annually, as part of our CSR activity, we open our plant to students and invite them to visit the facility, so they have the ability to see what it is like to work across different job roles, onsite.

We want to understand how other manufacturers are attracting and retaining talent and learn from each other. Despite operating in an ever-increasing digital world, we are always going to need human input. We need to attract great talent to ensure the world’s business infrastructure grows and flourishes and we need talented people excited and interested in manufacturing jobs.

We have a sleek manufacturing facility here in Peterlee with products designed, manufactured and shipped across the globe. We are very proud of our heritage, but we must act to ensure we have a sustainable future, and we need good people to help drive this.

I am very excited to be part of the network and look forward to working more strategically with the directors on important issues to make necessary changes for the growth of the sector.

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