We spoke to one of our new management group board members, Kevin Emmett, who is Technical and Operations Director at Supernatural-X Ltd. A manufacturer of composite products and components for leading design and engineering companies, Supernatural-X is based in Bognor Regis and specialises in components for F1, motorsport, automotive, defence, design, marine and architecture.
Why have you joined the Coastal West Sussex Partnership?
I’ve known about the Coastal West Sussex Partnership for a while and felt it was about time that I got involved. I’m excited to be joining a great team of people on the management group and hopefully I can help feed in to influence decisions in the local community to bring about positive change, particularly on the skills agenda.
I’m originally from London but I’ve now lived on the coast for 30 years. I just love this part of the world – it has a lot to offer.
Tell us about your work background, Supernatural-X and your role there.
My background is in manufacturing for motorsport. I’m the Technical and Operations Director at Supernatural-X, a composite manufacturing company based in Bognor Regis. We work with a range of industries, from automotive to architecture. We’ve diversified and are branching out into more new areas, including the arts, sculpture and furniture. It’s an interesting time for us and every day is different.
What are the biggest skills gaps in your industry?
There’s always going to be people without the experience that we need. We ask for people with aptitude and a willingness to learn. We have a wide variety of work and we have people from a variety of backgrounds – one of our new employees used to be a seamstress while another recently completed an Engineering degree.
What has been the approach to skills at Supernatural-x? What can other businesses learn from your experience?
I’m a big advocate of apprenticeships – I did an apprenticeship myself at British Aerospace and so I’ve always wanted to pass that on and provide similar opportunities. Our two directors also started out as apprentices.
I work closely with colleges and schools and give talks to help inspire young people to get into engineering, we offer work experience and we have a training school. There’s still a perception that engineering jobs always involve getting your hands dirty, when that’s not the case, so that’s something I always emphasise when speaking to young people.
In terms of the skills agenda, what do you think are the biggest challenges for the region?
From a manufacturing and engineering perspective, it’s about getting people involved in our industry. Composite manufacturing has a big presence up in the Midlands and they have a large turnover of staff there, but we just don’t get that here.
The University of Chichester has a really good name and there are lots of people coming through on engineering and digital media courses – we’ve just got to keep them here.
We also need to attract more businesses – we lost a lot of good engineering companies in the 2000s, but it is starting to pick up again. Bognor Regis is not really renowned for manufacturing, but things like the Rolls Royce Digital Skills hub and the engineering faculty at the University of Chichester are helping – we want to entice more engineering companies back to the area.
We also want to encourage more start-ups to base themselves here. It’s about making it work for everyone – jobseekers and businesses alike.