Close to my heart is the subject of engineering education. Engineering of course covers rather a large spectrum of skills and sectors but for the purposes of this blog I wish to be fairly generalist.
The last 16 years of my life I have been persistently entwined with rotating equipment manufacture and distribution (as a headhunter), particularly in the compressed air industry. Many readers from outside this world may not be aware of the utility of air in manufacturing and general engineering but it’s uses are evidenced in almost every engineering site around the world.
Because I have been in and out of so many such establishments as well as been working closely with education (particularly for students of 16-24 years of age), I have recognised some huge failings which can be addressed in a fairly simple manner.
Companies are now struggling to recruit engineers with the requisite skills for their enterprises. This is not a new situation, in truth it has been a gradual reality over the last 25 years or so. My brother was one of the last people to do a full indentured apprenticeship in the late 80′s in electrical engineering. He moved out of engineering into commercial sales. So have many people.
We’re now faced with a limited stream of young engineers coming into the market and therefore old hands are propping up industry with insufficient new talent to replace them.
It’s a difficult one to fix overnight, in the past companies were blamed for not putting in the training schemes to develop new talent (because they feared they’d put their resources into a new recruit and once they were trained a competitor would poach them). This is still the case though now the additional pressure of tighter margins and increased competition has ensured that companies just don’t have the resources to spend on training new entrants.
As a headhunter, I could be selfish and say that’s a good thing as my services are needed to try to coax passive, well looked after staff from competitors to my clients. This will of course always be the case as companies always require the best and the best are always fought over (and you need to employ a mediator to stand a chance of attracting them).
My altruistic side therefore says we need to fix the problem a lot deeper into our socio-economic system.
We need to encourage youngsters and make them see how exciting, creative and diverse engineering is as a career. Not only that, if youngsters followed engineering in their education, they would have far more opportunities for their careers than in many subject areas (there are only so many Jonny Depp’s! – and I can talk authoritatively on this subject…).
Engineering is available in many forms and ingredients are available for students from a very young age. I believe it is up to parents and teachers to give youngsters experiences of making things, working with tools and starting places can be as simple as visiting the number of great museums and enterprise centres in every town, region and country.
Beyond this, there is another side to the situation and one that can be actioned immediately rather than waiting for youngsters to grow up. That is how employers look to modern apprenticeships to engage, train and develop potential talent.
Modern apprenticeships are different to how the 40+ age group remember them to be, but they are accessible, provide reasonable grant aid to support them and can be tailored with academic providers to the needs and requirements of individual businesses (within reason of course!). I would encourage business owners and managers to seriously look into this area. It will benefit your business in so many ways if you do it right and ultimately it will help to generate growth at little cost. Statistically, though 99% of the British economy is run by SME’s (small to medium enterprises), only 10% of these are engaged in running apprenticeships.
If time is precious and you as a business owner or manager cannot find the time to research, engage and establish apprenticeships, talk to someone who knows and can put the building blocks together for you – if you choose the right people it won’t break the bank, it’ll save you from the bank!
Due to this being such a topic of passion to me, I’ll bang on further about it and so please expect some more views for consideration in a short while….
Remember, these topics are meant to initiate conversation at home and in the office so have a break, talk with those integral to the topic and let’s all work to create more engineering jobs and thus regenerate the economy by making things.