Focus on the UK skills shortage

I read with interest Angela Carroll’s LinkedIn post this weekend. She highlights the UK skills shortage and the gap this leaves for the engineering industry. Angela is part of an engineering business that has decided to take control of its own future through an apprenticeship programme. She showcases Conor, aged 19, in her article and outlines the career trajectory that is on offer to him. This initiative is great and mirrors that of jobs in engineering that have video profiles at This is Engineering. All good stuff; however, it’s interesting to note that these articles and posts seem to accept that the UK skills shortage exists. They offer a future in engineering from the employer’s point of view and from an industry perspective. But what about the teenagers? Who is looking at the skills gap from their point of view?

STEM learning

Well, there’s the STEM Learning organisation that promotes science, technology, engineering and maths in schools and colleges through learning support and STEM ambassadors. This organisation and others are set up to address the engineering sector skills gap and attract young people into the learning necessary for a future career in that sector. Its focus is on motivating young people in a specific direction because that’s what this country needs – more engineers. This approach has been celebrated by industry and by the media for many years. The Huffington Post even reported on the need for this focus on STEM as far back as January 2016 in an article by Coorous Mohtadi. Once again, all good stuff.

Skills gap – a problem in many sectors

So why am I writing this article? It’s because I’m getting the strong impression that this is a bit one sided. Lord Kitchener’s “Your country needs you” springs to mind and it’s all about engineering. Other industries don’t seem to get a look-in. Appeals from the UK film industry for creative people to join it and help grow the significant £111 billion industry from 90,000 employees to 100,000 employees over the next five years seem to fall on deaf ears. In a feature on the BBC’s The One Show earlier this year, the Creative Industries Federation pointed out that the call for 10,000 more people is being made at a time when take up of creative subjects in UK schools has fallen by 13%. So this industry is also reaching out to young people and has started working with schools to foster an appreciation of the sector and careers therein. I’m sure that further research would throw up data that highlights how the UK skills shortage is being addressed by other sectors as well; health care not least amongst them.

Careers crisis – the need for change

Might it not be better to approach this looming careers crisis from the other angle? To expand the role of careers advice in schools. To continue to develop strong academic and practical skills through schools but to find a way to put these into context. To take the teenager’s view on all this. To create an understanding of the rationale behind academic learning. Not just study subjects because that’s what teenagers are told to do, but study them because there is an obvious outcome for life after school. We’re talking about a fundamental change in the way our teenagers can discover the world of work and their future within that world. Putting careers advice in schools on steroids! Empowering our future work force with information that helps them make sound choices. Information that allows them to explore their own motivation and find a place for their aspirations in the world of work. I know that teachers and the education sector do their very best and the interests of the teenagers in their care is paramount. Maybe they just need some support and extra tools to help them bring the future after school to life. Maybe they need to talk to Working Eye.

Alan Joenn is CMO at Working Eye Ltd.

You can contact Working Eye here, or contact Alan directly through LinkedIn.