03/06/2014

By Simon Conington, Managing Director of recruitment specialists BPS and Chair of the Engineering and Technical Group at REC.

We are finally coming out of a recession that started as the ‘credit crunch,’ and then plunged the World into a financial crises that some believed we would never recover from. It is certainly cause for celebration and I hate to be the person sounding a note of caution, but in the UK we have to urgently address another crisis if we’re to maintain our prosperity — skills shortages.

As a nation there are some industries where we will never be globally competitive, as we would not accept the pay levels. We therefore have to focus our attention on the industries where we can be. One of those is engineering. It is estimated that engineering is worth £900 billion to the UK economy every year; yet every year the skills shortage increases. There have been numerous studies carried out with depressingly similar findings. For example, a report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering last year, found that the UK needs to increase the number of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) graduates by around 50% per year. That’s 100,000 graduates needed every year, just to maintain the status quo.

Engineering is at the very heart of our business at BPS. One of our longest standing clients, the nuclear company Nuvia, has been a partner for decades. Working with them and others we have been at the sharp end of meeting the skills shortage and the challenge of recruiting engineers who have the right qualifications, certifications and aptitude for utilising the latest technologies. In recent years it has become particularly difficult to find people with the right technical skills married with interpersonal skills. That problem will clearly get worse as the economy starts to grow.

Many of our engineering clients are now taking their own measures. Tim Hopkinson, MD of engineering company MW Hargreaves advised; “We believe a broader and more far-reaching understanding of the engineering industry will only be achieved if we engage at grassroots level. Our EYTP (Engineering Youth Talent programme) is in place to fundamentally build greater insight, as well as generate enthusiasm and inspire the next generation. We work closely with two local secondary schools to show them the depth and range of the industry — not just the engineering jobs available within the company, but also the roles that work to support that function. It’s important to see how all areas work hand in hand to fulfil projects and that there are positions available for varying skill sets”.

I believe that all companies, whatever their size and industry, have a role to play in ensuring that the UK has the skills we need. At BPS we’re committed to raising the industry bar and lead by example. For instance, we’re delivering one of the first ever industry apprenticeship qualifications in conjunction with REC, to improve the status and professionalism of recruitment as a career. We’re hoping that the Rising Stars programme will help find the people capable of recruiting the engineers of the future.

When you start to complain about skills shortages, as we all will very soon, remember that it is not a problem for someone else to solve. There are a huge number of people working hard to address this problem but you are part of it. Any business that employs skilled people, particularly engineers, is urged to get involved.

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