Ignoring the Skills Challenge
The UK skills challenge for engineering is not new. It’s been building up over the past twenty years as the children of the late 1940s to 1950s ‘baby boomer’ era moved ever closer to their retirement years and planning for replacing these staff has often been meagre at best and at worst non-existent.
What is new is the dawning realisation that ignoring the problem is not an option anymore. Most established employers in the UK with a typical ageing staff profile are likely to lose up to 60% of their existing skills and experience in the next five to ten years. In many cases these organisations are facing this challenge without any structured plan in place to counteract the impact it will have on their businesses.
Indeed the ever encroaching skills gap is moving to the top of the list as the most significant risk to business growth and successful recovery from the recession years. Many businesses are now starting to recognise this as their most critical threat ahead of competition, poor investment in new technology and lack of business innovation.
Businesses who do not have a 5 – 10 year forward resource plan, supported by a structured learning and development programme, to support their business goals are only planning for failure. Building today’s and tomorrows engineers requires not only a co-ordinated plan for entry level talent, apprentices and graduates, but also a skill refurbishment approach for those staff that may wish to stay longer in employment beyond normal retirement age.
Resource planning not only needs to address tackling replacement of today’s skills but also understanding the new skills that will required to support business growth while delivering improved productivity and flexibility. Understanding future skills requirements and the loss of existing skills in the business is the first step to deciding on the best way to drive a skill replacement plan. This will usually be by a mix of recruitment skills, if they exist in the marketplace, recruiting entry level staff whose skills can be developed over several years and refurbishing the capabilities of existing staff to tackle the new skills challenges.
Businesses that already have a reviewable resource strategy in place are well prepared to weather the skills challenge successfully. Those that have not started down this pathway yet will probably not be so fortunate in reaching a successful outcome.
Learning & Development Manager