Report Segment: Pipe Fitting
Keeping engineering and manufacturing in Norfolk is important. But there is an equally persuasive argument to address potential skills shortages of the future. We have referred to skills shortages elsewhere as a ‘scatter gun approach’ (see Norfolk Baseline report September 2010). But spotting a gap in the future skills market and acting ‘ahead of the game’ may be a sensible precision intervention.
Pipe fitting could be an example of a future skills need which if not addressed now may lead to the importation of skilled temporary labour from other parts of the country leading to loss of income to Norfolk. Richard’s in Great Yarmouth is a precision engineering company which supplies the energy sector (among others). Richards would like to see an apprenticeship programme for pipe fitters but there is apparently insufficient demand for such a course to be put on. EAGIT are accredited to run the relevant pipe fitting course (e.g. C&G 2800 or 2456 both of which include pipe fitting key elements), and ECITB have an agreement to send companies to EAGIT for pipe fitting courses. But of course the programme can only run if it is economical to do so – and the minimum number would normally be in the region of 7 or 8. So in the absence of evident demand, EAGIT can’t act, and pipe fitting apprentices are sent to other counties by ECITB. Not only is this inefficient and an obvious disincentive but it also disadvantages Norfolk for the future. Sizewell C will require hundreds of pipe fitters in the coming years (5000 people are likely to be deployed on the construction of the site over a 7 year period. Moreover, pipe fitting is a key process required across the energy sector. ECITB describes it as follows:
“Pipefitting is the laying out and marking out, cutting, forming and joining of metal pipe, which when assembled form industrial process piping and heating/cooling systems.
Typical industrial process pipe is under high pressure, which requires metals such as carbon steel, stainless steel and many different alloy metals fused together through precisely cutting, threading, bending and welding”.