According to the Department of Education’s Employer Skills Survey, the number of vacancies caused by skills shortages has more than doubled since 2011. The prominent skills gap, particularly in engineering, means it is difficult for employers to find employees that match all the requirements of a role. Here Catherine Lloyd, Training and Development Manager at global engineering company Renishaw, explores how engineering businesses can develop these skills in-house.
As well as the engineering skills gap, there is also an experience gap — employers are looking for recruits with the relevant experience to ensure their early stage career employees have all the required skills for the role. The Engineering UK 2018 report found that 46 per cent of manufacturing businesses reported difficulties in recruiting skilled machinists or technicians and 39 per cent had difficulty recruiting experienced engineers with specific skills.
Practical skills are a valuable commodity in many industries, particularly science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Technological advances in digitalisation, automation and artificial intelligence have added an additional demand for engineers with experience using such technologies.
Because it is so challenging for companies to find ready-made recruits, it is important that engineering businesses take responsibility for developing the skills of their workforce in-house, so that the industry can tackle the challenges of the future. But what skills do companies need to develop?
Developing the skill set
While hands-on experience with digital technologies is highly sought after, it is not just practical skills that make a good engineer. The Universities UK report, Supply and Demand for Higher-level Skills, discusses the need for transferable skills to meet the shifting demands of a modern economy.
Engineering businesses can benefit from a flexible workforce with a willingness to tackle a range of different tasks, regardless of their academic background. These skills include leadership, problem solving, teamwork, time management and effective communication. Transferable skills complement the presence of practical experience and reinforce pre-existing academic skills.
There are multiple pathways to beginning a successful career in engineering. Following an engineering degree, graduate schemes can help to develop an engineer’s practical and soft skills, giving employers the freedom to train and mould their recruits as required. Renishaw’s two-year graduate scheme involves six-month rotational placements across different divisions of the business, so a new employee could work in anything from metrology system design to biomedical engineering.
The programme also delivers a strong focus on transferable skills, including flexibility, communication, business awareness, team orientation and presentation skills. Graduates work with mentors, to ensure their theoretical learning translates it to a real-world working environment.
An alternative route into engineering is via an apprenticeship, which enables the employer to train new employees in hard and soft skills simultaneously. Apprenticeships help develop highly relevant, practical skills and can even be a route to higher education, either by opting for a degree-level apprenticeship or by beginning a degree after your apprenticeship ends.
“The hands-on experience you gain by doing an apprenticeship is extremely valuable,” explained Lucy Spiteri-Beale, a third-year software apprentice at Renishaw. “Everything I learn academically can be put into practice to reinforce the knowledge I’ve been taught.
“The six-month rotations around different divisions of the company helped me to figure out what career path to follow and what I enjoy most,” added Spiteri-Beale, “On beginning the scheme, I thought I wanted to work in website design, but I actually found I was more interested in creating user-facing applications.”
Because of the engineering skills shortage, employers should take responsibility to train new staff in all the required areas. Offering both a graduate programme and an apprenticeship scheme is a good way to start. The growth and development of recruits ensures a future of highly skilled workers, which will help to drive the engineering industry forward.
For more information on careers at Renishaw, including apprenticeships and graduate positions, visit https://www.renishaw.com/careers.