Enginuity calls for UK engineering and manufacturing stakeholders to help close skills gaps

Article by Amanda Jasi

UK ENGINEERING and manufacturing skills charity Enginuity says employers, training providers, and policymakers can help the sector thrive by pledging support to its Manifesto for Change. Calling for upskilling and reskilling, improved recruitment, and funding support, it outlines actions to close skills gaps and empower a workforce that can meet the opportunities and challenges of the evolving sector.

Enginuity, which works to address skills gaps in UK engineering and manufacturing, says the sector is critical to the country’s economic and social wellbeing, employing 10.7m people. According to MakeUK, manufacturing alone employs 2.6m people, contributes £224bn (US$281.7bn) gross value added to the UK economy, and ranks eighth globally by value of output.

Emerging technologies present an opportunity for the sector, but also promise disruption to existing practices. Meanwhile, an ageing workforce, skills gaps and shortages, lack of diversity, and struggling recruitment pose a threat to the sector’s potential.

The Enguinity Skills Action Plan for the Engineering and Manufacturing Sector – A Manifesto for Change focuses on five key actions to ensure the sector’s future.

Ann Watson, CEO of Enginuity, said: “The engineering and manufacturing sector is staring in the face of enormous challenges and fantastic opportunities. In order to meet them head-on, we need employers, training centres, educational institutions, and policymakers to work together.”

Dame Judith Hackitt, chair of the Enginuity board added: “If we do nothing, the sector will survive, but it will fail to thrive, and we will fail in our endeavour to be a leading global player in engineering and manufacturing.”

Upskilling and reskilling

The first action recommended is to upskill and reskill the existing workforce with modern technological, digital, and sustainability skills. Enginuity is calling on the sector to identify and understand skills requirements and for industries to engage in strategic skills planning across the UK. It is also encouraging local engagement with universities, colleges, and training providers to support learning.

In this area, the manifesto also asks for support from policymakers including that they mandate a core curriculum based on transferable skills and encourage local partnerships between stakeholders.

Flexible and responsive qualification and learning systems

To support upskilling and reskilling, another recommendation is to develop a flexible and responsive qualification and learning system. Enginuity is urging the sector to support this through efforts that include updating occupational standards to reflect modern practices, and working with universities, colleges, and schools to build capacity and capability for delivering modern engineering and manufacturing skills.

Attracting talent

A 2021 report from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) identified a shortfall of 173,000 workers in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) businesses. To help address the shortfall, Enginuity says the engineering and manufacturing sector needs to stimulate young people’s interest through positive promotional campaigns, highlighting the potential for careers (not just jobs) and progression.

It also calls on the sector to increase diversity and for collective actions to address apprenticeship shortfalls. Enginuity notes that shared apprenticeships, work placements, and sustainable partnerships with universities, colleges, and schools could benefit small- and medium-sized enterprises.

A supportive evidence base

Enginuity is asking stakeholders to help create a robust and cohesive evidence base to support decision-making on skills and the workforce. The skills organisation says it wants to collaborate with employers and policymakers to create a single skills observatory for the engineering and manufacturing sector. It is asking the sector to contribute by providing relevant data. Policymakers, meanwhile, can help track progress by providing data such as achievement rates on apprenticeships.

Funding system

Finally, Enginuity is recommending action from stakeholders to ensure a simple and flexible funding system to support engineering and manufacturing. It is encouraging policymakers to make funding systems more transparent, allowing employers to better understand what is available to support early-career professionals and for upskilling and reskilling.

It also highlights the Apprenticeship Levy in England, and post-16 funding, asking for efforts from employers and government to ensure optimal funding and best use.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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