Automation in the workplace: a member story

We talk to Andy Campbell, Traffic Controller for British Steel about how training and qualifications have made him more confident about moving onto other industries given how much automation has impacted the steel industry. Transcript for the video is below.

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I am a traffic movement controller for the British steel on the blast furnace side of things. So I move all the molten metal molten iron from the blast furnaces to the boss plant.

Obviously back in May 19, May 2019, when British steel went into insolvency apart from a qualification I got when I left school, which was in car spraying, I’ve got no other qualifications.

If I was to leave British Steel, I would probably feel a lot more confident in applying for positions with what I’m capable of. Whereas before I would feel like I was going to an interview and basically saying “well I can do it” but I’ve got nothing behind me to prove that I’ve got this knowledge, this experience.

Whereas now, because of the course, I know, it’s like anything you need the experience, but I’ve now got qualifications to back it up, to say that I’ve also passed this to this accreditation, as well. So I can put my money where my mouth is. That’s how I see it any way.

British steel has halved its workforce in the last 10 years. And obviously some of it’s been downgraded the plan, so they’ve closed some plants. But they’ve also, I’ve only just found this out recently, in the chemistry labs they’ve bought all brand new robots. So that’s losing jobs to robots in the chemistry labs for instance in one area of the plant. Well if that’s proven successful in that area, they’ll implement that in all areas where they have testing labs won’t they.

So in the last ten years, like I say, we’ve halved our workforce, and I don’t see the future being about bigger workforces, I genuinely do believe they’ll bring technologies in where they need less human interface, less human interaction, and it’ll be a case of I need qualifications to match to my experience.

So if British steel does go to a point of automation, if you don’t survive the redundancies or whatever it is, you’ve got your qualifications and your experience to go somewhere else.

Obviously, I live in Scunthorpe, and just down the road from us is Doncaster, an old mining town. You know and don’t get me wrong that’s on the boom now, but my wife’s uncle actually lives in Doncaster, and he’s related to an ex-mineworker. And he said there was 35-40 years of gloom before this new boom that’s come up, it’s took them that long to regenerate, erm, create jobs. But also, a new generation’s come through by that point.

The lads who lost their jobs in the miners they’re not the new gig economy over in Doncaster are they, there’s forty years between the two of them, so it takes a long time for towns or places to regenerate doesn’t it.

I mean Redcar’s probably on its knees now isn’t it due to SSI shutting. So it’s quite scary how fast things do disappear once a big employer shuts.

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