MD Blog: Growing an SME


While scrolling through Twitter this week I saw a post by Engineering UK stating, ‘over 80% of UK engineering enterprises are micro-companies’ with fewer than 10 employees.  They also recently reported that the UK needs 1.8 million new engineers and technicians by 2025 to bridge the skills gap within the industry, just one of many reports and studies highlighting the issue. 

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As managing director of an SME, these facts have me wondering whether the shortage of skilled engineers is limiting the growth of these micro-companies? Over the past few years, AWD has seen an increase in demand for our core services of temporary works, access engineering, and structural design. So, as a rapidly growing SME, it can be challenging to recruit talented engineers to expand our business and meet the demand for our services within the current climate.

At AWD, we have taken a unique approach to meeting this challenge. We are a specialist company, occupying a niche role within the industry, and we require engineers with specific skills. Many companies prefer to recruit engineers with experience, often overlooking young job hunters, rather than invest in the training and development of new graduates which can consume precious resources. However, a top-heavy workforce can often lead to a lack of fresh perspective, stagnation and a lack of innovation.

Our philosophy is to recruit motivated, enthusiastic young graduates who are passionate about engineering and invest in them, giving them the tools they need to succeed. For example, our in-house ICE approved training scheme supports our employees’ learning and development to help them on their way to the forefront of our profession. By training new employees in-house, we can ensure they have the right skillset required to tackle some of the most challenging engineering projects in our field. Our approach requires investment, commitment and a lot of hard work from both sides; however, in our experience, by putting our trust in young graduates and helping them develop their portfolio of skills, they reward us with their loyalty and commitment to the company, becoming stakeholders in our success.

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I believe AWD is currently thriving due to the investments we have made in the training and development of our staff over the past few years, and I’m exceptionally proud of the young and talented workforce we have who are taking on world leading projects from our office in Kilmarnock. As MD, it is also tremendously rewarding to watch our employees develop personally and professionally throughout this process, as well as the collaborative way all our staff share their skills and best practice to help each other develop.

Recent months have seen some significant changes at AWD, as we continue to recruit to fulfil the growing demand for our services. Our team has expanded with the addition of 2 new full-time staff members, Liam and Christy, both of whom fit perfectly into to our tight-knit team. Over the summer, we have had two additional personnel working with us in temporary roles – Robbie, a 3rd year student from Strathclyde Uni who joined us for a summer placement to get some hands-on experience for his studies, and Max, a high school pupil, who joined us for work experience, and who we are hoping to inspire to take up a STEM career.


With the longer term in mind, AWD is working extensively within our local community to educate and inspire young people to take up STEM careers, and to improve the public perception of the variety of roles available in STEM subjects. We have seen plenty of promising talent in our local area, and we regularly host events such as ICE Bridges to Schools, or volunteer in partnership with Developing the Young Workforce, and STEM initiatives such as Tomorrow’s Engineers Robotics Challenge. We also work in partnership with local universities and colleges to offer work experience and summer placements to local students to help nurture this talent to ensure the industry retains students who have a natural interest or ability in engineering.

It is an exciting time here at AWD as we see the business go from strength to strength and see our workforce continue to grow, and I’m looking forward to investing further in our talented team over the months and years ahead, and to be one of those SME’s that bucks the current trend.