19 May, 2022

It’s not all bad news on the ‘Skills-front’

25 September, 2014
By Chris Buxton, CEO, the BFPA. Britain is very much on the road to economic recovery. Almost universally across all sectors, BFPA members are reporting strong business pipelines with some sectors such as off-shore positively booming. However, servicing this steady increase in business is being hampered by a fundamental shortage of suitably skilled individuals with a good work-ethic. To stay ahead we must consider how best to harness the talents of our unemployed young people. The statistics are well known: • 80 per cent manufacturers are experiencing recruitment difficulties and two-thirds of those say this is because candidates lack technical skills. • 146,200 job vacancies (22 per cent) in 2013 were unfilled because of inadequate skills, compared with 91,400 (16 per cent) two years earlier (UKCES Survey). • 100,000 STEM graduates are needed a year just to maintain the status quo (The Royal Academy of Engineering). • In the UK some 23,000 engineers are graduating every year. (However, India is producing eight times as many; and China 20 times as many). • 830,000 graduate-level STEM experts and 450,000 technicians will be needed by 2020. There is also a human cost to this deficit: • Two-thirds of employers believe that their staff experience increased stress and anxiety as a result of skills shortages (67 per cent). • More than six in ten business leaders believe that a skills shortage results in losing work to competitors. • Employers are increasingly looking to the next generation to help fill the skills gaps that they are facing. However, research also shows that young people – particularly those who are currently unemployed – still face stigma and negative stereotyping from business leaders. • Almost three-quarters believe that the recruitment of young people is vital to avert a skills crisis and more than two-thirds believe that investing in better training for young people would help to fill skills gaps. • Employers are also facing difficulties with succession planning – six in ten admit they are struggling to recruit the leaders of tomorrow. Against this background it is all too easy to become demoralised and despondent. However, there is light at the end of this particular tunnel. Government have recognised the problem and there are numerous new initiatives to try and encourage young people into manufacturing and engineering careers but there is a limit that they can do and in this world it is becoming more and more apparent that “God helps those who help themselves”. One organisation that has helped to set the standard in this respect is JCB. A major end-user customer of many BFPA members. JCB has established the ‘JCB Academy; described by JCB as; an exciting new school for students from the age of 14 who are interested in business and engineering. Jim Wade the company’s principle states: “Our academy is the first of a brand new kind of school in the United Kingdom, focused on delivering high-quality engineering and business education.” JCB’s motto is 'Developing engineers and business leaders for the future' and the company’s aim is to ensure that its students have every chance to achieve success, whether they continue into further education, or move to further learning in the world of work when they leave the academy. In late July of this year the BFPA had the privilege of sponsoring two categories of award at the JCB Academy Awards evening and dinner. The chosen awards were: Student of the Year – Manufacturing Y13 won by Kieren O’Leary; and Achieving Through Action, won by Harry Skipper. Lord Sir Digby Jones presented the awards and also delivered a rousing and motivating key note address. It is this kind of initiative that gives hope to UK employers desperate to meet the demands placed upon them by strong business pipelines and an ever aging work-force. The BFPA is proud to have been associated with the JCB Academy event and wishes JCB and its students the very best of luck for the future. Additional notes The BFPA is also pleased to report that JCB is party to the BFPA Education & Training Task-force currently working to develop a modular educational framework for young entrants wishing to develop a career in the fluid power sector. The BFPA is also sponsoring three students through the Arkwright Trust – a scholarship trust set up to identify, inspire and nurture future leaders in engineering and technical (as opposed to aesthetic) design. This is done by awarding Arkwright Engineering Scholarships, through a rigorous selection process, to high-calibre students in year 11 in England and Wales, S4 in Scotland and year 12 in Northern Ireland.

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