‘The manufacturing sector has an opportunity for growth across Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, particularly for those companies within the aerospace sector’, that’s according to the managing director of Newry-based engineering firm, the Exact Group.
During a recent visit to the company’s facility by Minister of State, Conor Burns MP, Stephen Cromie stated that post Covid, the world of manufacturing has changed and that there are increased opportunities for companies, especially in the aerospace sector, where many organisations are now looking for valued and trusted partners that are not based in a low-cost country (LCC).
Stephen said: “The last two years presented many challenges, but also highlighted issues with not only logistics, but stock availability.
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“This in turn has caused many organisations to look for other like-minded organisations to ensure their supply chain is future proofed.”
The Exact Group believes that it is one such company and is well positioned to avail of these opportunities given its capabilities, which include engineering, fabrication and many cosmetic finishings.
Stephen admits this suits many of his customers, as sometimes they need the extra knowhow and capability and when it is all in the one place, it doesn’t just save time, but also money.
Stephen spoke to the Minister of State during the recent visit about the need to maximise these opportunities for growth, and to further strengthen the manufacturing capability within the region.
Acknowledging the need to be competitive, having built up his company over the last 20 years, Stephen said the key to overcoming these adversities is finding solutions as a sector in order to grow.
Stephen continued: “The Exact Group, and many companies within the region, need to maximise the opportunities that are being presented right across NI and the UK.
“We are all facing the same challenges, however, one aspect that could stunt that growth is the ongoing skills gap. To overcome this, a change at secondary level education is needed. Whilst it might be financially beneficial for educational facilities to encourage the route of third level education, it is important that the individual student’s aspirations and best interests are first and foremost when being advised on their future career path.
General manager at the Exact Group, Ronan Callan, explained: “We are working very closely with Southern Regional College (SRC) on its apprenticeship scheme to recruit and provide on the job and expert training to apprentices who will gain a recognised qualification and more importantly, much needed experience meaning that they are able to operate the machines as soon as it is safe to do so.
“We currently have 10 apprentices employed with the company and are hoping to recruit a further four in the coming months, which will significantly help fill the skills gap we are facing.”
Minister of State, Conor Burns MP, added: “I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit Newry and meet with The Exact Group’s senior team. It was great to hear of the many opportunities for future growth and the determination of Stephen and his team to find solutions to the challenges they are facing.
“Working with the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy, we’ve provided £15m to support their Skill Up programme. This will fully fund approximately 15,000 training places across local Further Education colleges and universities over the next three years.
“The Government is committed to skilling and levelling up Northern Ireland and this funding will help to address some of the issues that I have heard here today. “
One of the leading precision engineering firms in Northern Ireland, the Exact Group was recently awarded the SC21 Silver award for the second consecutive year.