Military can bridge skills shortage
20 November 2017
In the UK, there is currently a shortfall of 20,000 engineers each year. Brexit is expected to see this figure increase and, to avoid hindering Britain’s industrial growth plans, the Government has pledged an investment of £500 million pounds into further education. Here, Matt Collins, business development manager at power distribution specialist ide Systems, explains how businesses can address the skills shortage.
While there has been an increase in A-level entries for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, there is now concern that there is a shortage of teachers across technical subjects. The Department for Education Initial Teacher Training census reports that recruitment targets are not being met, despite employment of teachers being at the core of the British government’s strategy to help fill the void of engineers.
Education is at the forefront of tackling the skills shortage, with a growth of five per cent in engineering courses, except in sub-disciplines like electrical and electronic engineering. But with a shortage of teachers posing a threat to STEM education, is there anything that engineering companies can do to address the engineering skills crisis?
One effective way of bridging the skills gap faster than just relying on the education system is to invest in back to work initiatives with ex-forces personnel. With over 200 trades in the armed forces, including engineering, IT and communications, a lot of employers do not recognise the skills and attributes most veterans have inherited from their time in the military.
Those who have worked in the forces are accustomed to working in high-pressure environments and so can act decisively and calmly in any given situation. Those who have worked in a technical capacity for the military are responsible for maintaining, repairing and manufacturing equipment to keep aircrafts, vehicles and weapons in good working order.
This, as well as the work ethic and approach to learning that the forces promote, makes ex-forces veterans the ideal candidates for electrical engineering positions.
For example, ide Systems has a back-to-work programme in place to help ex-forces personnel get into electrical engineering. This initiative allows veterans to get hands-on experience in engineering power distribution equipment, which in turn is used in sectors ranging from construction to defence.
It is this commitment that has led ide Systems to receive a silver award in the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) employer recognition scheme. Investing in the back-to-work scheme has also allowed ide Systems to maintain a consistently strong skill set and high quality of engineering expertise from all staff, despite the wider industry skills gap.
While education is one way the UK can overcome the skills shortage, it’s clear that many veterans possess, or closely match, the skills required by most businesses. The transition from military to civilian can be a daunting experience, but armed forces personnel possess a range of skills that can be transferred to an alternative career — including electrical engineering.
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