- Posted by: Valerie Vaz MP
- Category: News
My visit to Firsteel on Friday 3 November 2023 started with a meeting as the main picture shows above with L-R Paul Jones, CEO of the Northern Automotive Alliance, Tony Grimshaw, Company Director of What More UK, Garry Ireland, Operations Director and Paul Didlick General Manager at Firsteel.
I was delighted to visit Firsteel, the Walsall coil metal coating company, on Friday, 3 November, in Walsall to discuss British industry. Firsteel is situated in Brockhurst Cresent and is dedicated to the manufacture and development of customised pre-finished metal solutions. This specialist business provides both metal and coating expertise for a range of substrates and applications, supported by long-term relationships with the world’s leading metal suppliers. The picture on the left shows L-R Paul Didlick, Paul Jones, Jaden, an apprentice, and Garry Ireland.
One of only two specialist suppliers in the UK, Firsteel process steel and coat it with non-stick paint for the bakeware and automotive industries amongst others. Parent company What More UK acquired the business to strengthen their supply chain and enable them to maintain their proud Made in Britain status.
Specialist skills are being passed on to the apprentices, on a programme set up with Walsall College. 2 apprentices are in place, with more planned. One is the grandson of a current employee. Apprentices are taking this opportunity to learn a trade.
There were wideranging discussions around the future of British industry and the importance of decarbonisation and digitisation as key priorities for the future. The Northern Automotive Alliance support Firsteel with training to meet supply chain standards required for large companies such as Jaguar Land Rover. The automotive industry is worth £78bn turnover in the UK alone, which makes it key for Firsteel to expand into that industry.
200,000 people work directly for the automotive industry in the UK, making it a key part of British manufacturing. With 800,000 working in the wider sector, and automotive adding £16bn to the UK economy (GVA), having a secure supply chain is key to supporting the industry.
I was impressed with the facilities and the commitment of the team in my video I said: “I’m here at Firsteel where I’m watching the product being made right in the heart of my constituency. It’s really important to protect our British manufacturing industry. I’m here with the Northern Automotive Alliance who are representing the automotive industry. It’s great to see manufacturing thriving in Walsall South, and I want to see it continue!”
Paul Jones added, “It’s great to be here today with the team at Firsteel. They’ve got a real hidden gem here in terms of their capability making coated strip steel products predominantly for the baking industry, but also for automotive. It’s good to see the investment going on here, and also good to see cross party political engagement. We’ve had the local MP for Wallsall, Valerie Vaz, here this morning and we’ve had some really constructive discussions about the way forward.”
General Manager Paul Didlick commented, “It’s been great to show off our facilities and capabilities, and also to have meaningful discussions about how we can progress in the future, including investing in our apprentices. Many thanks to our visitors for coming in, and hopefully this is the start of a great relationship!”Firsteel are a specialist supplier of coil coated steel for many different manufacturing uses, founded in 1957. The Firsteel business was a global pioneer in the development of continuously coated ‘non-stick’ products supplied into the bakeware sector.
I will be visiting the company again and raising awareness of the excellent work they are doing to secure the future of the company with their apprentices. I want to ensure Firsteel remain as a leading specialist business in the heart of Walsall.
What More UK manufactures metal and plastic housewares of all kinds, from around the sink items to garden, garage and officewares. WhatMore is a member of Made in Britain exporting UK branded goods to 76 countries around the world, in addition to every major UK supermarket and another 1600 independent retailers.
For more information about WhatMore UK: www.whatmoreuk.com
You can find out more about Firststeel: www.firsteel.co.uk