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2020 EAMA Skills Vision Report

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16/12/2020

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Enginuity news, Industry news

Enginuity and Gatsby Foundation back Engineering And Machinery Alliance (EAMA) research on employers’ skills needs

In many respects, the covid-19 global pandemic has accelerated the development of trends which were already beginning to gather steam. The general shift towards greater digital connectedness and consequent need for a digitally-skilled workforce in the engineering sector was happening before the pandemic; so was the need for coordination and joined-up thinking when it comes to embedding the right skills in the sector’s workforce.

The global pandemic has thrown into even sharper relief the advantages of having an engineering sector that can still call itself world-class – who else would have built the ventilators and hospitals the country needed? Building the ventilators and hospitals we need for a future pandemic depends on the development of a strong talent pipeline in the sector. Given the common skills needs we see across engineering, and the challenges posed by an ageing workforce in an era of rapid technological change, it makes good sense to pool expertise and resources to develop common responses.

That’s why the Enginuity and The Gatsby Foundation backed Engineering And Machinery Alliance (EAMA) research on employers’ skills needs, which was carried out before anyone had ever uttered the term ‘covid-19’, is even more important now – because we simply cannot afford to lose our engineering and manufacturing capacity. The role trade associations play in ensuring we have the right skills is going to be crucial, from encouraging members to engage with local schools and colleges to promoting and benchmarking training best practice. For the many SMEs out there which the pandemic has forced to think in day-to-day terms, this would be especially beneficial – although they don’t perceive their present skills shortages in the way larger employers do, they are also less likely to be thinking about their future skills needs.

And they need to be thinking about the future. The EAMA research identified digital skills gaps as the leading cause of skills gaps in the sector – which, combined with training that is either unsuitable or entirely unavailable, leaves many employers struggling to ensure that their less digitally-skilled (generally older) workers are able to keep up with their needs. Given that employers flag upskilling as one of the two top ways to solve their skills challenges (second only to ‘growing their own’ through apprenticeships), the need to ensure that the right training exists is obvious.

We also need to ensure that those workers who are most in need of help with digital (and other necessary) skills have the self-confidence and belief to take them on. It’s often the case that older workers in our sector, particularly at relatively lower skill levels, have been out of formal education and training for many years – and that they didn’t much enjoy the experience when they were in it. Thus, the most in-need workers are often the hardest to reach. With the right encouragement and with a supportive environment, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Employers in our sector want to do right by their people and throwing committed, decent older workers onto the scrapheap would not just be wasteful, it would be deeply unfair.

It’s not just about ensuring the current workforce has the skills, of course – we also need to recruit, train and retain the talent engineering is going to need in future. Here, our research shows that employers prioritise strengthening technical education (in terms of quality and in terms of availability) and boosting promotion of careers in the sector. The siren song remains the same – and if UK engineering is to steer clear of the rocks and enjoy a successful future, meeting the sector’s skills needs must now be the priority. It’s clear from our research that trade associations are ready and willing to play their part.

For further information and a copy of the Executive summary and Research go to

EAMA website – http://www.eama.info/

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