The academic year is well underway and it seems timely to look at the role we in industry can play when it comes to encouraging young people into engineering and manufacturing. The emerging skills gap needs addressing, and this puts pressure on education institutions especially when it comes to STEM subjects. There are now more opportunities for businesses to get involved and create effective partnerships or develop their own initiatives to inspire the next generation.
The power of the practical
This Manufacturing Global article highlights the importance of employer outreach programmes in addressing the skills gap. The work we do with education providers is crucial and we often favour practical demonstrations. Recently we took part in our local primary school’s ‘World of Work’ week and set up a production line where the children had the opportunity to make their own badge. It’s these kind of interactive experiences that we hope have an impact as they progress and lead them to get involved and enthused at all stages – like the group of Portsmouth University engineering students that were working on a race car project alongside their course to develop ‘ real-world’ experience. These applications are also happening at a bigger scale. For example, this advanced automotive institute in Bath, due to open in 2020 involves big industry partners like McLaren, Ford and Jaguar Landrover.
As machine learning and artificial intelligence become more prevalent the well-documented skills gap isn’t just confined to the tech sector, it’ll affect a lot more industries that rely on this advanced technology. This article on the government’s digital skills report suggests that as well as the government providing solutions; ‘grassroots’ work is also crucial. Within engineering and manufacturing, this can already be seen with several companies forging ahead. A big example is the new Dyson Institute of Technology. It’s just opened the doors to its first cohort of students and by teaching cutting edge techniques alongside more traditional processes of development; they get the best of both –tech savvy engineers with a high level of practical skills. Of course Dyson are a huge company with millions to invest but its more the positive reflection of what the industry can do. You don’t have to open a futuristic institute to make a difference. By offering encouragement and sharing expertise and innovation, companies will be able to help shape and form the workforce of the future.