Insights from the UK Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce Report




Enginuity News , Enginuity Update , Insights


Tackling the Engineering Skills Shortage

Shipbuilding added £3.1bn to the UK economy in 2022, while supporting more than 42,600 jobs. But like so many employers in the engineering and manufacturing sectors, shipbuilders face a significant skills shortfall.

That’s why, in 2022, the Department for Education established the UK Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce. Enginuity’s Head of Policy and Partnerships, Sarah Dhanda, is one of 19 members offering their expertise to address the industry’s skills shortage, and earlier this month they launched a much-anticipated report of findings and recommendations: A Step Change in UK Shipbuilding Skills.

Here are the four main priorities identified in the report, and an idea of how data-driven insights can help employers meet them, closing the skills gap not just in shipbuilding, but all engineering and manufacturing industries.

How to Build Engineering Skills for the Future

Encourage Collaboration and Skills Data Sharing

The Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce puts a special emphasis on collaboration in their report, calling for ongoing partnerships between industry, educators, training providers, trade unions and government.

The report recommends that the government form an industry-led group to act as a primary, “unifying voice,” advocating for a reduction in the skills shortfall moving forward. But a unifying voice needs a common language. While encouraging stakeholders to share skills data is a strong start, the taskforce also recognises the need for a strong framework to interpret that data so it can be used to benefit the sector as a whole.

That’s precisely why Enginuity has created a “common language” for engineering and manufacturing occupation and skills data. Where that occupational data can be effectively organised, compared, and searched, employers can act with confidence.

Promote a Vibrant and Inclusive Sector with Skills Data

According to the report, the public’s perception of shipbuilding is broadly negative. Students and career advisors tend to see a dated industry with poor prospects, which has an impact on the sector’s Talent pipeline. Part of the solution is to promote a new narrative, showcasing shipbuilding as the increasingly high-tech, sustainable, and diverse industry that it is. But that’s not enough. Engineers of the future need to know that if they commit to an industry like shipbuilding, there's a promising career path ahead of them. The best way to ensure this is with clear and comprehensive data that can tell employers and employees what skills they need to progress.

To make the point, the report cites Enginuity’s work on another initiative: the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult. To address a job-classification system that wasn’t adequate for tracking fast-changing skills requirements in the cell and gene therapy sector, Enginuity developed a common language framework for skills data and a ‘career converter’ tool to help individuals identify their transferable skills and potential next moves. These have paved the way for Role Explorer and Skills Comparator, two new tools launching in October that will help employers better manage appraisals and recruitment, and access a wider pool of talent by bringing transparency to skills across the engineering sector.

If current and future engineers can clearly see the career opportunities available to them, they’ll be more likely to commit to training and upskilling. That’s why the report recommends Enginuity’s data-focussed approach for use in other STEM sectors.

Leverage the Existing Skills System

The shipbuilding sector can work to highlight the career paths it offers, but in order to follow them workers and students will need high-quality, up-to-date training. The quality of training isn’t currently consistent across the UK, which can make it difficult for employers—and especially small businesses—to keep up with fast-changing skills requirements. That’s why the Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce recommends the establishment of a “network of excellence” for training providers, with clear criteria for quality, employer support, and collaboration.

To maintain excellence among both training providers and the next generation of engineers, Enginuity provides occupational and skills insights to EAL, our specialist Awarding and End Point Assessment Organisation. Their work helps to ensure that qualifications, assessments, programmes, and courses adapt to employers’ fast-changing needs.

Ensure Skills are Fit for the Future

The World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs Report found that 44% of the skills employees need will have changed by 2025, and the Skills Taskforce identifies several areas that shipbuilders and other STEM industries should keep an eye on. These include: 

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Data Analysis
  • Digital Twins
  • Communications
  • Energy Generation
  • Alternative Fuels
  • Virtual Reality
  • Robotics
  • AI

The report cites the High Value Manufacturing Catapult’s Manufacturing the Future Workplace Report, which sought to create a “clear line of sight” from technological advances to workforce skills in the electrification of the automotive industry. Enginuity is part of a consortium now developing the National Electrification Skills Framework and Forum—which will help the UK workforce meet the challenges of electrification across sectors—and is working closely with the Workforce Skills Foresighting Hub on a pilot in the automotive sector to link the outputs of Foresighting to existing training courses and help providers develop new courses to meet future skills needs.

Final Thoughts: STEM Industries Need a Sector Connector

A Step Change in UK Shipbuilding Skills makes a number of compelling recommendations, but underlying them all is a call for greater ongoing collaboration in the shipbuilding sector and beyond.

As technological advances continue to disrupt industries across engineering and manufacturing, all sectors stand to benefit from sharing data about the skills they need, but data is only one piece of the puzzle. Sectors need help to connect with each other, overcome common challenges, and foster cross-sector solutions.

As a Sector Connector, Enginuity brings sectors together through initiatives like the National Manufacturing Skills Taskforce, and is soon to release a new suite of tools to help employers identify the skills they need across engineering and manufacturing. There’s already considerable talent waiting to be harnessed, as well significant opportunities for training and upskilling. Enginuity is here to connect sectors, highlight potential, and help STEM industries close the skills gap.

If you're interested in working with Enginuity to look at how a sector or sectors could collaborate to improve skills, please contact our policy team: