Richard Brooks, 35, in effect became a civil servant when he served a graduate engineering apprenticeship at the National Engineering Laboratory in East Kilbride, in the days before it was privatised.
But until his secondment as an assistant to the chief executive of the SMMT Industry Forum in Birmingham last year, he hadn’t been near a machine shop since college. ‘I’ve always had a passion for manufacturing and it’s nice to be back working alongside engineers on the shopfloor,’ he says.
After spending two years at the DTI Engineering Industries Directorate writing reports on the problems facing a number of industries, Brooks wanted to ‘get out there and see them at first hand on a daily basis’. He’s also just finished a part-time MBA and wanted to apply some of the business planning and marketing skills he’s learned.
His role at the SMMT is to develop a new business venture which will offer guidelines and practical support to help car component suppliers measure their shopfloor performance and improve quality, delivery and cost.
‘The SMMT has now got a one-to-one interface with the DTI, someone who can translate government policy and help prepare bids for programmes,’ Brooks says. ‘Also, the DTI teaches you very strong organisation, filing and business process skills which I’ve used to help put in a solid administration system.’