Composites Skills Shortage
The Composites Skills Shortage leaves engineering businesses lacking vital skills at technician level.
Although the Composites industry is booming globally, the demand for skilled technicians already outweighs the supply of skilled workers. In Q4 2017, 22% of engineering businesses listed skills shortages as their most important business challenge in the coming years.
How can leading engineering businesses solve the Composites Skills Shortage?
Composites Skills Shortage: The Causes
Declining Apprenticeships in Engineering
Although the Government and industries have been pushing for more apprenticeships and the business requirement for young engineering talent has increased, the demand for apprentices is not matched by the demand for apprenticeships. Following the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in late 2017, meaning that businesses with a turnover higher than £3million must pay a monthly tax for every new apprentice, the number of apprenticeships started in the first quarter of the academic year fell by 26.5%.
Lack of Young People in Engineering
With the 2000 birth rate almost matching the UK’s lowest birth rate since 1915 (in 1977) and the 2017 birth rate falling to its lowest in the past decade, there are far fewer 18-year-olds joining the workforce than at any other time in the past century. Skilled workers around the ages of 50-55+ are starting to retire, leaving a jobs gap and lack of workers to replace these skills and experience.
The Composites Skills Shortage is partly driven by a lack of awareness of engineering careers in young people. Without direct exposure to the innovative and currently thriving engineering industry, students, teachers and parents may not be aware of the career path and life opportunities that engineering can provide, and many potential engineers often lack the support and advice they need to get into the industry.
Composites Supply Chain
The UK Manufacturing Review 2017-2018 identifies a weakness in the UK industry supply chain as one of the main reasons for the Composites Skills Shortage. ‘The supply chain is not ready to switch from metal to composites on several levels. Vertical integration of the complete composites supply chain in the UK will be encouraged and the subsequent anchoring of component manufacturing here will be facilitated.’
Investment in building and adapting the supply chain can secure more Composites manufacturing in the UK and Europe, and prioritise local manufacturing rather than importing, in turn attracting local engineering talent into the Composites industry.
Composites Skills Shortage: The Solutions
Diverse Engineering Talent Pools
Whilst women make up over 50% of the UK population, just 9% of the UK’s engineering workforce is female – the lowest in Europe – while Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with 30%. Despite people of ethnic minority background making up around 14% of the UK’s population, BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) talent is also underrepresented in the UK engineering industry – although BAME students account for 25% of university engineering graduates, only 6% of UK engineers are from BAME backgrounds.
A diverse workforce filled with people of all ages and backgrounds will enrich the engineering sector with new knowledge, skills and experiences. Young talent will help the UK engineering industry to create exciting new technologies in a fast-paced and rapidly advancing world, allowing Composites businesses to remain competitive in the face of upcoming global challenges.
Build a Composites Skills Pipeline
Work with schools, universities and other relevant industry bodies to identify potential engineering talent at a young age and engage them in the Composites industry. The National Composites Centre (NCC) has developed two specific training offerings in line with the National Industry plan developed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The NCC’s new courses aim to ‘build a new system of technical education to benefit the half of young people who do not go to university’.
Promotion of the Composites Industry: A Different Approach to Raising Awareness
VHR’s Principal Account Manager and Composites Recruitment Specialist Azem Hoti agrees. ‘In a globally connected world where young people are bombarded with career choices, we need to actively reach out to potential engineers or we risk losing out on talent.
‘Young people in schools are unaware of the advantages and rewards that a career in Composites can offer – we need to show them what they’re missing. Industry leaders can work directly with schools, universities and young people to promote the importance of Composite Technicians to the future of the global engineering industry, empowering potential talent to become part of the incredible things engineers create and inspiring them to become a part of the industry that we love.’
VHR’s Composite Recruitment Specialists are attending JEC World 2018 – the leading international composites event. Arrange to meet us there.
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