Skills shortage remains top of the agenda
March 03 2016
No other issue dominates manufacturing as much as skills shortages and the EEF has reported that ‘manufacturing will require almost one million more workers by 2020 to replace those retiring or leaving, but the quality and quantity of graduates is failing to match industry needs’.
So how do we overcome old stereotypes about manufacturing? And how can education and businesses work together to address the shortages?

These were just some of the questions asked at the recent Midlands Skills in Manufacturing event organised by Midlands Business Insider. I was fortunate enough to represent Crofts & Assinder on the panel alongside other leading organisations, including EEF, National College for High Speed Rail and the University of Wolverhampton.

In fact, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills 2016 survey revealed that ‘the modest economic growth of the past four years has been met by an unprecedented shortage of skills, leaving thousands of vacancies unfilled’. In my opinion, the lack of skills could be down to the decline in students wishing to pursue a career in manufacturing.

So how can we convince more schools, and more students, to take an interest in manufacturing and engineering when it’s perceived as an undesirable career choice? Changes to educational funding have meant that the teaching of practical skills in some schools and colleges is reducing, meaning that students miss out on the chance to experience new skills and learn about our industry as a career.

In my view, this is one of the reasons the industry must work closely with teachers and career officers in schools and colleges to offer work experience placements and apprenticeships, which provide a true taste of the industry. Whether it’s through career talks and fairs, work experience, workplace day visits or career sessions with motivational speakers, it’s our job to support and inspire the next generation of young people.

To address the skills gap, we should also look closer to home. It’s important that we don’t forget our existing staff and we invest our time and money in order to teach them new skills. Moreover, individuals who have worked in a company for many years possess traditional skills, which are just as important as modern and technically advanced skills.

Identifying the skills shortage is easy but coming up with solutions seems to be the difficult task and there’s no doubt that this issue will be on the agenda for some time. It goes without saying, when encouraging young people to pursue a career in manufacturing, inspiration is equally important as opportunity.

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