ERJ staff report (PR)
London – Despite years of top-level initiatives, measures to address skills shortages in the rubber industry and, indeed, almost every other part of the manufacturing sector are still proving woefully ineffective, believes Andrew Smith of Rockwell Automation Ltd.
Skills gaps continue to affect most countries, from the most industrially developed like Germany and Japan, to China and other emerging economies.
However, the issue is perhaps most acutely felt by mature industries in countries such as the UK and US, which lack the engineering culture and training infrastructures to keep pace with the scale of retirements.
Government and industry leaders in these countries are not doing enough to close the skills gap and support manufacturing sector growth, Rockwell’s UK-based business manager, field labour & training, argued at a recent press conference in London.
Smith backed his case with a study by the Royal Academy of Engineering, showing that UK industry will need 100,000 new graduates in science technology engineering and mathematics subjects. A further 60,000 technicians and apprentices will be needed every year until 2020 merely to maintain current employment numbers.
Meanwhile, SEMTA - a UK government-appointed body to meet the skills needs of the science, engineering and manufacturing sectors - predicts demand for engineers, scientists and technologists will increase by 96,300 per year between 2011 and 2016.
But instead of any narrowing of the gap, there has been a 22% decline in the volume of registered engineers in recent years. Moreover, added Smith, the average age of qualified professionals in the sector has risen steadily over recent years and now stands at 55 - pointing to a growing imbalance in the workforce demographics.
Rockwell’s research has found that nearly a third of businesses are having trouble finding people with the right talent and qualifications. The automation company is, itself, having to bring in engineers from the US, Germany, France and Italy to support its own engineering programmes because it can’t find the right talent in the UK.
“We as an employer in the UK find it really difficult to find good talent, competent and qualifies engineers and that is the same for many of our customers,” said the Rockwell business manager.
“These statistics spell out the dire situation we are in,” continued Smith. “We as a group of people have a moral duty to start raising the profile of issues due to the lack of skills in our industry and start building lobbying groups that are going to change the situation.
“Building talent to help us grow and compete in world markets must be front and centre in the minds of government, education and skills authorities.”