"We firmly believe that we need to do more to support those studying at university."

Stew Edmondson

Let’s Talk About Skills, Again – Then Act

Earlier this month The IET published the results of their annual Skills & Demand in Industry survey. Did we learn anything new with this survey? In my view – no, we didn’t. Here is a flavour of the report:

Skills supply remains a leading concern for employers: almost half (46%) report difficulties in the skills supply  when recruiting and a quarter (25%) report skills gaps or limitations in their existing workforces. What’s more, the recruitment of engineering and technical staff with the right skills is identified as a barrier to achieving business objectives over the next three years by 61%. A concern for 70% of employers reporting a lack of skills is the supply or quality of young people entering or seeking to enter the industry to pursue engineering or technical careers.

The findings are remarkably consistent to those from last year’s survey and also to what we found when we undertook a survey of TechWorks members during the summer. This is not surprising. Moving the ‘dial’ on skills is a generational challenge and can seem an overwhelming one at times. Nevertheless, when you consider the record numbers of pupils studying Maths and Physics in Sixth Form/Key Stage 5 (over 96,000 took Maths and over 36,000 took Physics last summer) then there is hope. This is why it is so important to scale-up our project to promote Electronics to these pupils.

We firmly believe that we need to do more to support those studying at university. The IET reports that only 37% of respondents provided work placements to engineering and technology students. This is disappointingly low percentage; investing in undergraduates to give them practical real-world experiences that complement their academic studies is a real ‘win-win’. That said, acting unilaterally can be a bit daunting, which is why we are finding more companies are joining our Scholarship Scheme. By working collaboratively we can achieve more.

The IET survey also reports that 9.6% of the workforce in the Electrical/Electronics sector is female. As we have said before, increasing diversity in our sector needs cultural change to tackle, for instance, unconscious bias and outdated stereotypes. It’s not the girls that need ‘fixing’. We recognise that work at a local level can make a difference, that is why initiatives like the Women’s Tech Hub in Bristol is so encouraging. This year, they helped us to produce some specific advice for female applicants interviewing for our scholarships. We have also recognised that making the transition from student to graduate engineer is a significant step and so we support all our final-year female scholars to participate in the Women Engineering Society Student Conference. Therefore, whilst talking is good, taking action is better. Contact the UKESF to learn more about our work and how you can get involved: info@ukesf.org

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