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. 


Skills Vision

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Welcome to the Skills Vision Blog

Tuesday, 16 July 2019 00:00

Engineering Talent - Retaining People

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The future of recruitment is a hot topic for discussion. Particularly when it comes to the engineering and advanced manufacturing sector. UK government statistics reveal that engineering contributes to 26% of the UK GDP (more than that of retail, wholesale, financial and insurance sectors combined). With figures like that it's easy to see that now, more than ever before, it's imperative that we have the right people, with the right skills, in the right job, at the right time.

So how can the engineering and advanced manufacturing sector recruitment process be simplified?

One strong contender for the solution is Engineering Talent.

When it comes to celebrating and showcasing the best talent in the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector there is really only one night you cannot afford to miss: the annual Semta Skills Awards. Hailed as the most prestigious event in the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector calendar, the festivities take time to award the best in UK talent.

Since their launch in 2014, the awards have always been purposeful in bringing to the forefront, the talented individuals and companies that make the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector one of the jewels in the crown of the UK economy.

It's easy to take having a voice for granted. Having your views and opinions heard and considered. Sadly, for many people studying and working in different industries around the globe, this is not a privilege they are granted. Here at Semta we strongly believe in the voice of apprentices training in the engineering and advanced manufacturing sector. Today's apprentices are tomorrow's workforce, the energy and power behind the industry.

Monday, 17 June 2019 00:00

The Perkins Review Reviewed

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November 2018 marked the 5th anniversary of Professor John Perkins' Review of Engineering - a report originally commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Professor John Perkins CBE (Chief Scientific Advisor to the BIS at the time) was assigned the task of authoring the report on engineering training opportunities and the subsequent skills shortage within the UK. Taking 2 years to prepare, the 2013 report shed light on a definite engineering skills shortage and the effects this was having on the UK economy in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

Tuesday, 04 June 2019 00:00

Welcome to the Summer RevEAL

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Welcome to the latest edition of RevEAL - a unique publication of engineering and manufacturing specific news, views and analysis created and curated especially for you.

This Summer 2019 edition is now available for you to download here.

Thursday, 28 March 2019 00:00

WorldSkills UK Registrations

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From photography to finance, from football to pharmaceuticals - there seems to be world youth challenges, conferences and competitions for everything at the moment. These opportunities for rising talent to showcase skills and ideas on a national and international stage have paved the way for many aspiring young people over the years. WorldSkills UK is no different - an initiative structured around 3 core programmes to champion young people's success in partnership with business, education and governments.

WorldSkills UK's competition cycle starts with National Qualifiers in your chosen skill, these are held all over the UK between May – July. If you are successful in gaining a top 8 position from across the UK in your skill you will then be invited to compete at WorldSkills UK LIVE. WorldSkills UK LIVE is an annual competition that stands as the nation's largest skills, apprenticeships and careers event.

Attracting more than 75,000 visitors, the competition is the pinnacle for skill recognition and proudly supports the place of apprenticeships and technical training in the UK. WorldSkills UK, Chief Executive, Neil Bentley says it best: "Our mission is to change the national conversation so that apprenticeships and technical education are seen as prestigious career routes for all young people across the UK, whatever their background, and on a par with university as a route into meaningful careers".

But what exactly does this have to do with engineering?

Last week’s A Level results showed female entrants outperforming their male counterparts, with 71.% of females achieving a C grade or above compared with 69.6% of males. There’s absolutely no good reason why someone’s characteristics – gender, sexuality, ethnicity, social background, you name it – should determine whether or not they can achieve great things in STEM.

Today’s GCSE results, however, tell a rather different story to those A Level results. Across the UK (excepting Scotland, of course), males have outperformed females in GCSE Physics – there’s been a sizeable overall improvement in male performance and a corresponding decline in female performance.

Great news – the number of people getting A Level Physics results is up on last year, bucking the recent trend of decline. And in even better news, Physics results have improved too, with a higher proportion of A* grades being awarded and the cumulative percentage being awarded a C or above breaking the 70% barrier – bucking the general trend.

University isn’t the only option for what comes next, of course – there are a number degree apprenticeships available now, and it was pleasing to see Institute for Apprenticeships chief Sir Gerry Berragan promoting them in his blog piece this morning (although he didn’t mention any in engineering!). A recent study found that although three quarters of 11-16 year olds think it’s important to go to university to do well, that’s down on the 86% who thought so in 2013.

Guest blog by Hannah Naqwi, Industry Apprentice Council member

When it comes to apprenticeships, I and my fellow Industry Apprentice Council members firmly believe that the people whose views matter most are ours – the apprentices.

That’s why every year, the IAC surveys apprentices from engineering and related sectors. We collect apprentices’ views on the hot topics of the day, from end-point assessment to the use of qualifications, and we publish our findings in our annual report, along with recommended actions to make apprenticeships an even better and more attractive career route for young people to take.

Our 2018 annual surveys are now live - we’ve got one for apprentices, which you can find here, and for the first time there’s also one for their parents, which you can find here. As an incentive to get involved, one lucky apprentice will win £250 in vouchers just for completing the survey!

This International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is perhaps the most important in recent years. 2018 is, of course, the Year of Engineering, during which there will be (at least) a million interactions between young people and our sector. Given the continuing gender disparity in engineering, we need to make sure more than a fair share of these interactions are targeted at girls.

The gender disparity in engineering isn't something that springs up overnight. Girls are no less capable, when it comes to STEM subjects, than boys – indeed, girls actually outperform boys in GCSE Physics. And girls are not lacking, as a group, in the skills and attributes needed to have a successful career in engineering. The problem is not one of girls' making – it is a social one and is to do with how our society perceives different types of work.

We live in a heavily gendered society, where certain behaviours are denoted 'male' and others 'female', and this is embedded within the minds of girls (and boys) from a very young age – you only need to take a walk down a toy aisle in a department store, and compare the toys targeted at children of each gender, to see. However, when it comes to reshaping our sector, lots of those 'female' attributes – creativity, teamwork, helping others – are ones which employers are going to need a lot more of in the coming years, thanks to the way the Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing what an engineer does and how they do it.

We aren't going to shift our whole culture overnight and change the gendered nature of certain behaviours and skills. However, we can in the short to medium term demonstrate to girls that the 'female' attributes they have are ones which engineering really wants them to bring to our sector. That's where the STEM Exchange comes in – this matching service, relaunched by Semta for the Year of Engineering, is bringing educators and engineering employers together, helping those educating our young people to better understand the range of careers that are open to them.

Changing our wider society's culture is something which might take a little time, but we can start today, together, to change the culture of our engineering sector. Currently, around 3% of engineering apprentices are female – there's actually been a drop since 2002 – and around 9% of our sector's workforce is female. This is poor in comparison to many other countries, but it is something we can and must change if we are serious about making the very most of all of the potential engineering talent we have available to us.

A new report  by the Young Women's Trust (YWT), which Semta helped to produce, recommends a range of interventions which we can make to help to attract more girls and women into our apprenticeship programmes and into engineering roles. Changing where and how jobs and apprenticeships are advertised; changing recruitment practices, e.g. using name-blind CVs; rewriting job adverts so the wording better suits female applicants; making flexible working available to all employees and; using the 'tiebreak' provision to bring in female candidates.

These are just some of the recommendations made by the YWT, they are cost effective, and with the practical support already available in the WISE online apprenticeship toolkit, launched last year in partnership with Semta and the Institution of Civil Engineers, can be implemented immediately.

So my challenge this International Women in Engineering Day is threefold. Firstly – sign up to the STEM Exchange, if you've not done so already, and offer an opportunity to local educators so they can understand what a career in engineering has to offer the girls they teach. Secondly – read the Young Women's Trust report to think about how you could change your recruitment practices so that you are able to reach a wider talent pool. And finally – view the WISE apprenticeships toolkit in relation to the culture of your organisation, and think about the practical measures you can implement in the workplace to create a more diverse workforce.

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