Gareth Higgins MBE is the Group Managing Director of KMF, the Staffordshire-based leading supplier of precision sheet metal fabrication and engineering solutions.
As head of the company, Gareth has invested heavily in educating staff and creating a first-class apprenticeship service to help recruit and train skilled employees. This approach has seen KMF grow from £1m in sales when Gareth started at the company 26 years ago to over £38m today.
Among those investments is a purpose built Apprentice Training Centre at their Newcastle-under-Lyme site, with both practical and educational facilities. Recruiting between 10 and 15 apprentices a year, KMF has been working closely with Staffordshire University to provide a pathway to a Bachelor of Engineering degree, with the first two successful apprentices graduating in 2017 and many more currently studying.
Gareth’s own start at KMF came at the age of 23, after five years as a Weapons Engineer in the Royal Navy. His father, Michael, founded the company in 1971 with fellow directors Ken and Fred (hence the name KMF) but it wasn’t until after serving in the armed forces that Gareth decided to join the family firm.
Over the next 17 years, he worked his way through the business, starting on the factory floor and progressing through every department before becoming Managing Director in 2009. During this time, KMF has grown from a 5,000 sqft site in Burslem to over 250,000 sqft of manufacturing facilities both in the UK and Europe, with a second factory located in Slovakia. They employ over 500 full-time staff and aim to grow the business to £50m in sales by 2021.
KMF’s education programme is a cornerstone of their success and Gareth is keen to grow the company’s partnership with Staffordshire University. Working closely with the School of Engineering, KMF’s Young Engineer of the Year competition and the School of Creative Arts, several art and design students have visited KMF and used the company’s expertise and machinery to complete their final year projects.
Gareth was also part of the Tower to Tower team that took on the Donna Louise Trust challenge in May, alongside Staffordshire University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Liz Barnes, Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Ieuan Ellis and Senior Lecturer in Sports Therapy Steve Bateman. The challenge involved cycling, rowing and walking 530km from the Eiffel Tower in Paris to London Bridge to raise funds for the charity.
The Award of Honorary Doctor of Staffordshire University is bestowed upon Gareth in recognition of his role in raising the profile of engineering in North Staffordshire, his investment in the training and motivation of young people and partnership work with the wider education and business community.