“I find it incredibly difficult to find talented people,” says Driver. “But in engineering and chemistry you’ve got a particular issue. These are generally fairly straight-line people – in terms of training. If you want them to do a wiggly line thing, like selling, you’re asking for two sides of the brain to be doing quite opposing things.”
Driver is a self-confessed anomaly, having made the transition from chemist to salesman. But it seems that finding staff to master even one of these competencies is proving difficult.
“You’ve got someone with a degree in chemistry coming in for an interview,” says Driver. “So you automatically assume that they know something about chemistry.”
This is Driver’s main bugbear: candidates lying at interview. Take computer literacy, for example. At Vickers Labs, a lot of the technicians need to use Excel: –
“Everybody claims to be able to use it,” says Driver. “All the graduates say, ‘Oh yeah. I can do that. So we give them a simple task to do. And they’re crap.”
Therein lies Driver’s cynicism about graduates and cushy university life. “People often have perceptions about themselves, coming from university, which are totally unfounded,” he says. “It’s not the end of the world because you can train them. But you do need a bit of honesty to start with.
It’s a break from the norm. Usually, there’s a preference for young, fresh, often cheap labour, straight out of college. But Driver prefers experience to fire. Which does make sense in a chemical factory…
“Older people tend to bring so much more awareness,” he says. “There are some young men and women out there who are fantastic. But they tend to go and work for KPMG and earn telephone numbers. And are working 20 hours a day and burnt out by 30.”
“We don’t run that sort of business.”