EEF’s new voice

New EEF director-general Martin Temple is a steel man by background but, as he tells Paul Carslake, his mission is to promote the broad interests of all `people who are making things in the UK’

Martin Temple and Graham Mackenzie. Two director-generals of the Engineering Employers’ Federation. Two men from the steel industry. That, though, is probably where the similarities end.

Temple, who took over the role nearly two months ago, succeeds Mackenzie, who has returned to industry to cut costs and sharpen up operations as chief executive of ASW, the steel company which bought the Co-Steel Sheerness plant earlier this year.

Temple takes the EEF job after being boss of Avesta Sheffield, the stainless steel joint venture between British Steel and Swedish steel maker Avesta.

The steel link is a coincidence. And the job Temple has to do is rather different from the task that faced Mackenzie when he became director general. His brief was to transform the organisation into a leaner, more efficient lobbying organisation. `Mackenzie was there to change the EEF. He has done that and now he has moved on. Temple is here to expand it,’ says one insider.

Temple appears steady, unflashy, and a good communicator, with a sensitivity about how his words may be interpreted. He has already dabbled with a number of public bodies, though as an industrialist from the outside. This is his first role with such a high public profile, and he admits moving into this from industry was not an easy choice.

`I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a difficult thing, because I had always seen myself in business,’ he says.

Temple, the son of a Yorkshire farming family, studied geography and botany at Hull University before taking his first job as technical officer at British Steel. At 23 he became marketing and sales manager for a newly-formed group of refractories, before becoming general manager at just 27.

His explanation for this career coup is modest: `Nobody else was around,’ he says. `It was a case of dead man’s boots.’ But he admits it became a good place to learn how to run a business.

After more than two further decades of management and project work within the steel industry, running the EEF `business’ will be slightly different. Temple thinks it is essential that he brings his own attitude and approach to bear on the organisation.

His arrival coincides with a growing campaign from manufacturing to oppose the Government’s controversial energy tax proposals. With his background in the steel industry – which would be hit particularly hard by the tax – Temple has a good grasp of the arguments against the measure.

The issue also demonstrates why the EEF still has its own relevance as distinct from all-sector lobby groups such as the chambers of commerce and the CBI. `The CBI has been very helpful,’ he says, but points out that it is manufacturing industry which will bear the brunt.

`There is no ambiguity on the EEF’s position on this. [The Government] has lost the plot slightly in the way it has chosen to legislate in terms of the environmental issues, and has ended up being potentially very damaging to manufacturing industry. The tax burden comes to manufacturers. The rebate, if you like, comes to anybody. And that discriminates against us.’

The EEF has long been lobbying for all of manufacturing industry, rather than solely for companies that define themselves as part of the engineering sector. Temple sees no reason to change this.

`We will still try to represent people who are making things in the UK. We, together with others, are custodians of that which is professional and expert – the skills of the engineer. And even traditionally defined skills have a use for companies making things that are not typically viewed as `engineering’.

The idea that the EEF should change its name to reflect its wider lobbying role across the whole of manufacturing industry remains outside mainstream policy – for now at least. `If there is a name change, it will evolve naturally from the position that we achieve,’ says Temple.

`It’s not a major issue today,’ he adds, although he admits the relevance of the words `engineer’ and `employers’ are sometimes questioned in light of the scope of the EEF’s membership and mission. `But we see engineering as a very apt part of our name,’ he insists. `It denotes standards, qualifications and expertise.’

The importance, he says, is to keep the profile of manufacturing and engineering prominent in the public eye, both to influence policy makers and to encourage youngsters to start careers. `I am genuinely passionate about making things. I like factories,’ he says.

`I have worked in one of the most traditional areas of engineering, and I have had a superb career. I have had a really interesting time. I’ve travelled the world, met some of the most interesting people, been involved in products that have made some of the most spectacular pieces of equipment or buildings, and that has been enormous fun. `We have got to get that sort of message across to young people to come in to manufacturing in general. There is nothing more stimulating than walking out in a factory and seeing all these things being done. It’s a damn sight more interesting than sitting in an office at a desk all the time.’

After seven weeks at the EEF, Temple’s feet may be under the desk, but his heart is still clearly on the factory floor.

{{Martin Temple at a glance

Born: 30 August 1949, ScarboroughEducation: University of Hull: BSc Geography and BotanyFirst job: Technical officer at British Steel CorporationCurrent job: Director general, Engineering Employers’ FederationInterests: Watching rugby (Rotherham), music, theatre}}

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