Skills Provision Interview with Chris Slay

This month Engineering Update editor Taylor Owens sits down with Chris Slay, Director of Skill Provision. We discussed the continuous issue regarding skill shortages within the engineering sector.

Hi Chris, thank you so much for taking the time out to sit with us today. I would like to firstly ask for a brief introduction to Skills  Provision. Can you give our readers an insight into what you do as a business?

A – We are a global recruiter. Through our network we currently cover 187 countries which is about 95% of the world. If a client needs to move very quickly into a new territory, we can get this underway within days in most sectors using “employers of record”. Whilst partners manage this aspect we get stuck into the recruitment once we have been fully briefed by the client and we are confident they are ready to recruit.

Q – We are aware there has been a shortage for some time within the engineering sector here in the UK. Can you let our readers know what your mission is to bridge the gap?

A – Largely education. The government has provided tools that cover virtually every job description within in the engineering sector but there are processes that are unavoidable that have to be followed and costs that need to be paid but it is a clear pathway to tackling skills shortages here in the UK but it needs detailed corporate planning and commitment which is something UK PLC has not  had to do previously when there was visa free access to European Union nationals.

Put simply as an Engineering company leader you need to get in an application into the government for a license as soon as possible if you see hiring challenges ahead. None of it is complicated but it is paperwork heavy so many clients chose to outsource. Again, we can introduce you to specialist lawyers that will undertake the work for you, but original documentation must come from the employer.

Couple this with a recruitment contract and the search for new talent can start but realistically from the date of signature of a contract and getting the license underway you need to allow 60-90 days for delivery. Reinforcing the need for proper corporate planning.

Secondly automation. In business every time you touch something it costs you money. Are processes necessary? Do they add value? Can they be automated reducing or changing the workforce need?

Q – Aren’t you shooting yourself in the foot here? If processes are automated will recruitment services be required?

A – At Skills Provision we play the long game. Ultimately the stronger our clients are the better it is for us. Requirements will change as routines are changed and lower-level jobs are eliminated raising the quality of people needed. This helps both our clients and Skills Provision, but the full benefits cannot be covered in a short interview.

Q. What are the costs?

A – It is not cheap, and it isn’t fast. Let me provide you will a table that you can share with readers. This we will try to simplify, but it takes some comprehension even if you are dealing with this on a daily basis. This is why we offer a cost-free consultation, but definitive numbers can not be given until a client decides on the offer they wish to make.

What employers need to think about is that without the right employees the business future is grim, especially with an aging workforce and a lack of local skills.

Do employers really have an option? Even with full government support it will take at least a decade to replace lost skills let alone developing those needed into the future.

We all now live in a global village and UKPLC is competing for skills internationally and contract offers need to be internationally competitive. Skilled employees have free choice and will understandably chose the best overall package available to them.

We are here to help and aim to grow our businesses together with our clients.

Q – We are now two months in to 2022. What changes would you like to see from government to entice young people to start a career in engineering?

A – It would be lovely to think that the government is some kind of fairy godmother with an answer to everything but there is one thing they should do in my opinion and that is to look at the STEM shortages (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) + healthcare and say that if graduates work for British industry for a set period their student loans would be written off over say 5-10 years. We seriously need to grow our own talent.

Q – Do Employers need to engage with an immigration expert on visa processes immigration?

A – It is a complex area and we work with specialist partners such as Silk Route Legal which provide the table for this article. Immigration is a legal process and professional advice, whilst optional, is recommended.

Q – One thing we are an advocate for here is women in engineering, are there any initiatives to look out for in the industry to get more women involved?

A – With the use of technology this will come. Again, employers should hire the bast candidate irrespective of gender.

Q – At Skills Provision we know that you and the team work tirelessly to involve as many people as possible to learn new skills, do you have anything for the engineering sector that our readers should be looking out for? Also, what is the best way to get in contact?

A – There are about 1.2 million businesses in the UK but less than 50,000 hold licences either through a lack of awareness of the Skills Shortage list ( or the unwillingness to roll up their sleeves and to get on board a process that will solve their skills shortages.

A strange statement to make but that is the reality as we approach Spring 2022.

Fastest way to make contact is to use the chat facility or a contact form at

Q – Thank you very much for your time today, Chris, it has been a pleasure speaking with you. In summary, can you send a message to young people who are aspiring to join the world of engineering?

A – The UK lead the industrial revolution. Brits are some of the most creative innovators in the world of Engineering, but historically the UK Government has been slow to support British entrepreneurialism. Getting Engineering skills will set you up for life whether you want to work in the UK or globally. Use your time well at university and look at future fields like automation and robotics which are the future of engineering.