Semta's Chief Executive Ann Watson shares her views on the latest news, policy, issues and events of interest to the engineering and advanced manufacturing sector. 


Monday, 05 June 2017 00:00

Let's work together to close skills gaps and eliminate skills shortages

Written by 
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Guest Blog by Dame Judith Hackitt - Semta Chair



This is a great time to take up the reins at Semta as the new Chair. UK advanced manufacturing and engineering is a highly-skilled, high-value sector, one with a rich and proud heritage and a bright future. We have a great opportunity now to take a global lead in new technologies and build upon the solid foundation that we have – and as the skills champion for the sector, Semta stands ready to play a leading role in making it happen.


We have a really good story to tell as a sector and we have so much to offer potential recruits – good pay, career stability, interesting and exciting work, and the opportunity to change the world for the better. We have a generation of young people coming through the education system now who are so innovative and creative, and engineering would seem to be the perfect fit for so many of these young people. And yet we have a continued mismatch of skills and aspiration that the education and training systems deliver and those that employers require. The sector has a huge amount of opportunity to offer but we need many more school leavers to follow the apprenticeship route alongside an integrated and long term approach to skills – both vocational and technical – which has so far eluded, or been resisted by, the UK system.



We need a collaborative, coherent and coordinated approach across the sector to reach out to those young people, especially from groups which are underrepresented in engineering. I see a key role for Semta in bringing together the very best initiatives the sector has to offer and ensuring that the voices speaking in favour of engineering skills are amplified, rather than talking over one another.

It is well known that the UK lags behind many other nations in its productivity and although UK manufacturing productivity growth

outperforms the rest of the economy as a whole it still does not compare well to other countries. Employers in the sector are ambitious to make change and ingrained in almost all business plans is productivity improvement. Productivity improvement requires two key things:

  • Continuous improvement which must include developing the skills and talent of the existing workforce and new recruits
  • Investment which brings step changes in productivity through technological advancements and R&D


Underpinning both of these is the need for a significant increase in the demand for leadership, management and line management skills. Digital leadership will be a new requirement if as a sector we are take full advantage of Industry 4.0. Without these crucial skills, productivity gains will simply not happen and the UK’s competitive position in the world will be further eroded. The skills gap that the sector is facing is not confined to leadership and management skills but is across the board – from production related technical skills to craft and technician and at higher levels both technical and management.


As a sector we are not short of enthusiasm in trying to solve the problem but in doing so we have created many, many initiatives to change the status quo. In having so many initiatives, they unwittingly compete with each other for air time and employer support and probably confuse and overwhelm rather than inspire the very young people and their parents that we are trying to attract into a 21st Century Engineering and Manufacturing career.


The entire sector needs to agree a single vision and message which inspires and enthuses kids to see our industry as it is today - as we see it – one that is exciting, interesting, ground breaking and can offer a wealth of opportunity. Collectively we need to portray a world that is as exciting, interesting and nail biting as the games they play on their tablets and mobile phones – not history lessons on Brunel or Stephenson.


So I am proud to take on this leadership role with Semta in what truly are exciting times. I will close with a call to arms to the sector – we have it in our power to close skills gaps and eliminate skills shortages where they exist, we just need to put in the work together. I intend to seize the opportunity whilst I am Semta Chair to bring the sector together to work collaboratively to tackle this huge challenge. I firmly believe that this is a fundamental building block for a successful UK economy for the 21st Century and beyond.


My challenge to you is to get involved and for us all to work together - with our collective enthusiasm and passion for solving problems this is something that is not beyond the realms of the engineering community to crack. I look forward to continuing the dialogue and also hearing from you if you would like to spark change through collaboration.


Read 1693 times Last modified on Monday, 05 June 2017 15:49