Bridging the Skills Gap
As I have reported in previous articles, there is currently a skills shortage being felt by all industries across the UK. Being blamed on the fallout of Brexit and the exodus of EU workers from the UK, as well as the British education system’s inability to turn out enough people with the correct skills, companies from all sectors are suffering.
To put this into numbers, research conducted by Engineering UK has found that an additional 1.8 million engineers and technically qualified workers will be needed by 2025. Although the UK university system is itself producing a 20,000 shortfall year upon year.
So we know there’s a problem. A big problem. But aside from educational reforms and national drives to attract overseas top talent, what can we do about it?
How Employers can Bridge the Skills Gap
Part of the problem is that schools are gearing many students up for a life of academia, which, as I’m sure we’re all aware, isn’t what most people spend their lives doing. By attempting to refocus attention on work and the skills required to be part of the UK’s workforce, companies need to start helping young people develop their necessary soft skills, and open their eyes to the opportunities available to them.
Build Relationships With Schools
Due to stretched resources, the traditional couple of weeks of work experience isn’t as common as it used to be. Therefore businesses should be making a greater effort to engage schools outside of this conventional format. Instead, companies can offer talks at the schools which can be held during break times of assemblies.
Simply engaging with students in this way can help educate them as to the options available, and may (especially in older pupils) get them thinking about what they need to do to get their dream job.
Change the Preconceptions Surrounding Apprenticeships
For many the word apprenticeship has a stigma attached to it. Perhaps they had a bad experience when they were younger, or they’ve associated the word with the unpaid internships that plagued the jobs market a few years ago. Whatever the reason, apprenticeships remain an extremely valuable way to help young people to develop the skills necessary to integrate into the workplace.
By creating encouraging narratives around the successes of your apprenticeship schemes, you can help change this. Getting young people, and those still in school, to see that there’s an alternate route to work (other than the traditional university path), can help encourage those who are less academically minded to pursue certain careers.
I am not going to pretend that these things are going to blow the skills gap away in one foul swoop. But these are simple steps that, if taken across the board, will eventually lead to the changes we need to see. If you’re unsure about how to get your company involved with local schools, I recommend getting in touch with an education charity which will be happy to help:
– SHINE gives children the opportunity to acquire the skills and confidence they need to turn their potential into success at school and beyond. (https://www.shinetrust.org.uk/)
– The Sir John Cass Foundation has been established for over 300 years and contributes to educational policy, practice and research in order to shape and meet the evolving needs of London’s young people. (http://sirjohncassfoundation.com/)
– Ark is an international charity transforming lives through education, with a UK network of 35 schools and over 21,000 pupils. (http://arkonline.org/)
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